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Rapidly Urbanizing/Bowling Green/warren County Mpo, Kentucky

The Bowling Green/Warren County Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) is responsible for transportation planning in Warren County, Kentucky. Bowling Green was classified as an urbanized area after the 2000 Census, and the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet designated the MPO in 2003. The MPO's jurisdictional boundaries encompass all of Warren County and include the cities of Bowling Green, Plum Springs, Oakland, Smiths Grove and Woodburn. This case study will focus on the achievements of the new Bowling Green/Warren County MPO in planning and producing its first long range metropolitan transportation plan.

The city of Bowling Green is located on the Barren River in south central Kentucky, approximately 114 miles south of Louisville, Kentucky and approximately 60 miles north of Nashville, Tennessee. The population in Warren County was about 117,700 in 2000. The region has a rich history, a major university, and a balanced economic base. As a result, the area has seen steady population growth and employment expansion for several decades and this trend is expected to continue. The Kentucky Data Center projects a 39.4 percent growth in population for Warren County between 2000 and 2030. The additional 46,400 people will bring the population total to 164,100 within 30 years.

In anticipation of a new MPO designation, the regional transportation and planning agencies invested in early planning and leveraged existing mode-specific plans to produce a consolidated long range metropolitan transportation plan addressing a multimodal transportation system including roadways, public transportation, bicycle and pedestrian transportation, and airports. One of the challenges for the new MPO was to maximize stakeholder involvement in the urban planning process. The Bowling Green/Warren County MPO used a project selection scoring methodology developed by a special subcommittee of the Technical Advisory Committee and a public participation process known as "strings and ribbons" adopted from an MPO in Florida.

Strategy

The metropolitan transportation plan for the new Bowling Green/Warren County MPO was begun by incorporating and building upon the concepts and recommendations from previous planning studies. Among the plans considered were the historical local transportation studies for roadway projects including the Bowling Green Kentucky Urban Area Transportation Study 1970-1995, followed by the 1983 Bowling Green Urban Area Transportation Study and the 2000 Bowling Green Urban Area Transportation Study. Also reviewed were recent airport master planning documents and the transit plans that had been developed over the years. The MPO considered the efforts of other agencies including statewide plans, regional plans, county plans, and corridor studies.

By seeking out and considering other plans, the MPO was naturally led to coordination with the organizations that authored them. For example, infrastructure development plans at nearby Western Kentucky University led to coordination between the University and the MPO on mutual transportation planning concerns. The consideration of other plans also led to incorporating other modes into the planning process including public transportation, airport and bicycle and pedestrian facility plans. And lastly, the process of considering other plans served to remove duplicate projects and competing plans thereby increasing efficient use of regional resources. Taken in its entirety, this process ultimately led to a more unified regional transportation strategy and better regional coordination with all the major stakeholders and plan authors including the City of Bowling Green, Warren County, Barren River Area Development District, Kentucky Transportation Cabinet, and Western Kentucky University.

Policy

The Policy Committee for the Bowling Green/Warren County MPO consists of the senior administrative officer for each of three levels of government – the city, county and state department of transportation. The members of the Policy Committee are: the Mayor of Bowling Green, the Judge/Executive of Warren County, and the Secretary of the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet. The MPO has two standing committees - the Technical Advisory Committee and the Citizens Advisory Committee.

The Bowling Green/Warren County MPO established a set of goals that include:

One of the responsibilities of the MPO is to develop the transportation improvement program (TIP). The TIP is a program of projects from the long range transportation plan that are selected and prioritized for annual project funding and implementation. The Technical Advisory Committee is responsible for recommending and the Policy Committee is responsible for approving the program of projects in the TIP after review and comment by the Citizens Advisory Committee. The Bowling Green/Warren County MPO established project evaluation criteria based on the MPO goals. The evaluation criteria were the basis for the TIP project selection process. In this way the MPO goals have meaning and impact from policy to project.

Process

The new Bowling Green/Warren County MPO sought to maximize stakeholder involvement in the urban planning process. Two initiatives were adopted by the MPO to incorporate both technical and community priority into selection of projects for the first TIP. The first initiative used a process to prioritize projects developed by a special subcommittee of the Technical Advisory Committee. The special subcommittee was comprised of representatives of the staff of Barren River Area Development District and the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet. The second initiative is a consensus-building exercise that provides an opportunity for the Citizens Advisory Committee to learn about the transportation planning and funding process while also providing insight about community priorities for the members of the Technical Advisory Committee and the MPO staff.

Project Selection Scoring Criteria

The technical scoring criteria developed by the special subcommittee of the Technical Advisory Committee had a total of eight categories with the six of them matching the MPO transportation planning goals: Mobility, Access, Connection, Safety & Security, Economic, and Environmental. The remaining two categories were for "Commitment" that reflected project readiness "Community" that reflected input from the Citizen Advisory Committee. Each category had a maximum allotment of one hundred points.

Each category had a series of "yes" or "no" questions that determined the point values for the category. For example, under the category Connection, 10 points were awarded if the project "connected to a bike or pedestrian facility", and other questions asked about connection to transit, rail, or airport. Therefore, the more modal connections the higher the score for Connection. The questions under the other categories worked similarly – higher scores for projects that met the planning goals. The special subcommittee scored each project for each category and tabulated the results on a spreadsheet. The Technical Advisory Committee reviewed the process and adopted the scoring without any changes.

The Community category score was tabulated separately. This score came from the Citizens Advisory Committee. Each member of the Citizens Advisory Committee received a project explanation and scored each project on a scale of one to 10 where five was a "neutral" score, zero was "not needed," and 10 was "needed now," and everything in between was based upon the judgment of the citizen. The Community score was then entered into the spreadsheet and was equally weighted with the other category scores. Each project was listed in rank order with its cost estimate. Knowing the total budget (in this case $166 million), the MPO Policy Board selected the top listed projects until the budget was depleted.

Strings and Ribbons

The Bowling Green/Warren County MPO also used a public involvement process known as the "strings and ribbons" exercise. Strings and ribbons was designed by Dr. Lisa Beever when she was director at Charlotte County/Punta Gorda MPO in Florida. Strings and ribbons is a consensus-building exercise used in transportation planning to teach citizens about needs, constraints, priorities, and funding flexibility. The exercise also serves to build community consensus.

The name comes from the materials needed for the exercise, which include ribbon to represent one year of funding for roads (based on a scale); string to represent one year funding for sidewalks, paper cutouts of buses; and paper cutouts of other modes. In a sit-down setting, at least three participants are needed to participate in the exercise. Up to five or six groups can play if facilitators are available. Each table has a map, scissors and glue and display board. Three scenarios are explained to each of the participants: allocations, funding flexibility and cost feasible mapping. Each participant is given the opportunity to trade their strings and ribbons for other transportation improvements. For example, individuals are given a length of ribbon that represents road funding for one year. They can use this ribbon to expand an existing road, build a new road, or trade it for an equal dollar amount with another mode.

The exercise allows participants to develop their own version of a long range transportation plan in an interactive format based on a very graphical representation of projects and priorities. Participants become aware that there are many transportation needs and not enough money. The exercise creates citizen understanding and buy-in of the planning process. The Bowling Green/ Warren County MPO used the strings and ribbons exercise to help expand the awareness and understanding of the transportation planning process and to validate the criteria for the project selection scoring process.

Table: Bowling Green/Warren County MPO Summary

Planning Area Notable Practice
Strategy
  • By researching and considering the plans of other agencies before developing the first long range metropolitan transportation plan, the new MPO was naturally led to coordination and cooperation with the organizations that authored them.
Policy
  • The MPO policy board adopted planning goals and project evaluation criteria based on those goals to guide project selection for the transportation improvement program
Process
  • The evaluation criteria are the basis for the transportation improvement program project selection process. In this way the MPO goals have meaning and impact from policy to project.
  • The new MPO borrowed the "strings and ribbons" exercise from an experienced MPO. The new MPO used the exercise to encourage citizen involvement, understanding and buy-in for the transportation planning process and the initial selection of priority projects.

Contacts

Lance Meredith, Transportation Director, Bowling Green/Warren County MPO, 800-598-2381, lmeredith@bradd.org
John Matheney, (Formerly) Transportation Director, Bowling Green/Warren County MPO, jmatheney@bradd.org

Websites

Bowling Green/Warren County MPO: http://www.bradd.org/MPO/index.asp,
Barren River Area Development District: http://www.bradd.org
Citizen's Strings and Ribbons Game http://www.vcmpo2025.com/input_strings.html

Updated: 03/26/2013
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