Megaregions Research Conference Call - September 15, 2011
- Fred Bowers, FHWA Office of Planning
- Ken Petty, FHWA Office of Planning
- Catherine Ross, Center for Quality Growth and Regional Development (CQGRD) at Georgia Institute of Technology
- Myungje Woo, CQGRD
- Fred Ducca, University of Maryland
- Robert Harrison, Dept. of Civil Engineering, University of Texas, Austin (UT)
- Bob Hazlett, Maricopa Association of Governments
- Bill Lyons, USDOT/Volpe National Transportation Systems Center
- Haley Peckett, USDOT/Volpe National Transportation Systems Center
Fred Bowers introduced this second call for the Megaregions Research Group. Fred Ducca, from the University of Maryland, and Myungje Wu, from CQGRD, participated on the call for the first time.
Brief Updates on Research
- The Community and Regional Planning department hosted a program on megaregional issues, with focus on freight and women's involvement. A Burlington Northern Railroad representative presented on their business model, with implications on how freight moves within and between megaregions.
- Researchers completed a synopsis of megaregional literature, with an emphasis on freight movement, prepared for Texas Department of Transportation. They recommend and expect support for integration of megaregions planning in their new Statewide Transportation Plan.
- Researchers have an emerging research partnership with institutions in Louisiana, recognizing economic coherence across state lines.
- There is a new graduate megaregions class through Community and Regional Planning (Professor Talia McCray).
- On the horizon, research may look at hybrid vehicles for urban deliveries for future zero-emissions freight.
- The research team is convening a wider list of partners (including several in California) to expand their geographic spatial analysis project. They hope that multiple parties who have developed these databases can use them to inform each other.
- Catherine is presenting a small logistics project at the TRB Annual Meeting.
- Catherine and Myungje are presenting a paper titled, "Megaregions: Convergence and Divergence and Implications for Spatial Planning and Infrastructure Investment" at the 2011 Association of Collegiate Schools of Planning (ACSP) conference in October. The paper may also be relevant to rural megaregions research.
- Researchers are working on an urban/rural integration model (comparative between U.S. and China).
- MAG submitted a paper for the Brookings Institute's "Transformative Investment" series, and hopes to present it at an October conference in Colorado Springs.
- The JPAC's freight framework study is making progress.
- University of Maryland:
- University of Maryland is building a model of the Maryland/Virginia megaregion, which is similar to the boundaries that Catherine Ross's group developed. It began as a transportation model. The group has worked through challenges in merging different models, such as the National Economic Model and FAS linkages and local land use and transportation models.
- The model shows how changes in the national economy flow into megaregions and affect individual counties. The model includes data sets of the dollar value of economic flows of each county. The model also links congestion and travel time impacts between counties to the economic vitality of the region.
- The model will be completed in January or February 2012.
- FHWA is participating in the Rural Implementation Group, a regional rural partnership committee, as part of the HUD-EPA-DOT Sustainability Partnership. They are looking at economic advantages of rural areas and talked about expanding Volpe megaregions research to consider a rural perspective.
- How can rural communities advance from being part of a megaregion? What does that mean to them? How can they advance economically and maintain their rural feel?
- FHWA is planning a Healthy Communities project that may have implications for megaregions.
- They have ongoing scenario planning activities, which could feed into megaregions research.
- As FHWA creates their 2012 research plans, they are including some of the efforts mentioned on the call and supporting planning overall.
- There is a livability/sustainability project upcoming in the fall.
- Volpe is completing its white paper with metropolitan planning organization (MPO)-based case studies.
- They recently completed a review of all Statewide Long-Range Plans with a searchable database of topics for all 50 states. They searched for and could not find much on megaregions. The Public Database is available on the FHWA and FTA Transportation Planning Capacity Building website: http://www.planning.dot.gov/stateplans/default.aspx.
- Volpe is creating a research proposal for the rural role in megaregions: how can rural areas benefit from and contribute to megaregions planning?
- They are completing a short white paper on Healthy Communities, focusing on MPOs.
- Volpe has an ongoing collaboration with the Transport Research Centre (DVS) of the Dutch Ministry of Infrastructure (includes transportation), and are currently co-hosting a visiting researcher from the Netherlands who is researching Sustainability and Regional Planning. Volpe and DVS will host a workshop on regional planning and sustainability at the Dutch Embassy in Washington, DC after TRB.
- Fred Ducca: Our model consists of an economic model that forecasts population and employment for each state; a land use model that disaggregates that to the county level and modeling zone level (based on the current location of activity in each county); and a transportation model (with trip generation and other transportation features). The model can then output travel time between regions. The model shows that counties or zones within a megaregion may not be able to support the economy. The model ties a change in the transportation network to impacts on the regional economy, which is new territory.
- UT-Austin has used a model to examine ports in Texas. The model can show powerful arguments for guiding policy at the metropolitan level, but there is a need for a model that can work well on the megaregion level.
- Bob Harrison notes that raised corporate average fuel economy standards for large vehicles would have an impact on freight costs. Freight operators have already made the easiest efficiency changes, and it will be harder for them to respond to the next level of changes.
- Question on Texas/Louisiana megaregions work: Are researchers considering climate change adaptation, emergency evacuation, or other topics beyond freight? There is interest in extending the megaregion beyond land border and into the Gulf of Mexico for emergency response purposes. Megaregion response may also be needed at a high level for redundancy in the transportation systems. If Houston receives a direct hurricane hit, all container shipping would stop, causing a need for partnerships elsewhere in the megaregion.
- The Dutch have long considered considering climate and sea level rise throughout their projects. There may be an inter-regional planning connection.
- Catherine Ross emphasized lessons from utilities, because they are used to planning across state lines.
- Is FHWA thinking of referencing megaregions in its reauthorization proposals? Ken: Yes, we are considering it, but we are trying to figure out the right direction (relative to performance, and climate change, for example), based on Congress's approach. CQGRD is also interested in contributing to that question.
Participants discussed ideas for collaboration or topics that would be of interest to the group.
- Bob Hazlett: Beyond freight, we are interested in interstate and international connections with other megaregions from an MPO perspective.
- Bill Lyons: The definition of boundaries can be both data driven, as CQGRD has shown, and also fluid. A city or region may be involved in multiple megaregions for multiple purposes. MAG sometimes realizes that an issue is not confined to Arizona but ties to other States and countries.
- If FHWA is considering megaregions in reauthorization which results in a funding program, then figuring out the boundaries is critical.
- CQGRD: Megaregion boundaries should be flexible depending on the planning purposes. The purposes (such as transportation by mode, environmental, economic development, etc.) may affect the selection of criteria to define megaregions. The purposes should therefore be identified prior to identifying megaregions.
- Catherine Ross: The Piedmont Alliance for Quality Growth (PAQG) is an alliance of universities, mayors, and private sector representatives primarily interested in implementation. Is there an opportunity to convene a meeting of this group to talk about issues, challenges, and a framework for megaregions planning and implementation? This would bring a national perspective to PAQG and demonstrate differences and commonalities.
- Megaregions consist of institutional, operational, and functional relationships. The operational facet would be where we would develop a National Perspective on Frameworks for Implementation.
- Implementation is JPAC's primary goal. With the current economic situation, board members are eager to do something that will generate more economic activity. The boundaries issue comes up because we may need a greater area or more stakeholders for implementation measures.
- Megaregions involve solving real problems that are not otherwise being solved.
- Volpe found, through its megaregions research, that initial planning efforts are underway but pooling resources and funding new projects is often difficult. This may be a consideration for reauthorization.
- There is a need to combine implementation with innovation. Consider economies of scale and mutual benefits. Look to utilities for successes in joint planning processes.
- The group re-visited a planning-related peer exchange, possibly hosted by MAG, to discuss megaregions. FHWA is generally in favor, subject to management approval. There also may be an opportunity to integrate with PAQG or to have a joint focus on implementation.
- Other future projects include application of Fred Ducca's model and the upcoming megaregions presence at the TRB Annual Meeting.
- Volpe will circulate a list of emails and phone numbers with the call notes.
- Participants should share documents or hyperlinks, which can be integrated into call summary notes or consider a shared web resource for broader availability. Such a resource would also help define the topic.
- The group will plan another call in a month, focusing on opportunities for collaboration.
- FHWA and Volpe will continue to host megaregions conference calls about every four to six weeks, depending on schedules. Participants can feel free add others that may find the topic of interest.