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Rapidly Urbanizing/ Lake-sumter MPO, Florida

A foundation of good planning practices, multi-agency cooperation, and shared expertise guide the counties in rural areas that are rapidly urbanizing in Florida. Lake County was successful in working with Sumter County to create a policy board, organize the advisory committees and staff, and establish the required metropolitan planning processes for a new urbanized area in 2004. The keys to the Lake County transition from a rapidly urbanizing rural area to the Lake-Sumter MPO were: technical guidance from the FDOT district office, the leadership and regional collaboration with the Central Florida MPO Alliance, and guidance from neighboring MPO for the three-county Orlando area (METROPLAN Orlando). The Lake-Sumter MPO was also assisted by a long history of strong county government and required comprehensive planning in Florida.

The Lake-Sumter MPO is located in rapidly growing Central Florida, immediately north and west of the Orlando metropolitan area (See Figure 1). Central Florida has been experiencing sustained growth for the past decade. After the 2000 Census, two urbanized areas around the cities of Leesburg, Eustis and Lady Lake were identified in Lake County. Representatives of FDOT and local officials discussed the possibility of the urbanized area on the east side of Lake County becoming part of METROPLAN Orlando while the second urbanized area on the west side of the county including a portion of Sumter County would become part of the MPO in Ocala. The final decision, however, was to create a new MPO containing both urbanized areas and all of Lake County. The Lake-Sumter MPO was established in February 2004 (See Figure 2). The Lake-Sumter MPO planning area includes all of Lake County and that portion of the urbanized area that extends into Sumter County (See Figure 3).

The majority of development in Lake County is located in the communities adjacent to the U.S. Highway 441 corridor, and in the southeastern portion of the county. The population of Lake County was 210,528 in 2000. By 2004, the Census reported the population of Lake County had increased 23.9 percent in four years to 260,788. Similar growth is expected in county-wide employment. The majority of growth is expected to continue to occur adjacent to the U.S. 441 corridor and in the southeastern portion of Lake County

Strategy

While metropolitan transportation planning is the responsibility of the MPO, rural area planning remains largely in the hands of the state department of transportation. All states are required to develop statewide transportation plans and these plans are intended to address the needs of rural residents. In Florida, the district offices of the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) lead rural transportation planning with input from counties. Each FDOT district has a liaison who meets with county commissioners and other county officials throughout the year to address transportation project priorities.

Under Florida law, the county board of commissioners sets transportation policy in counties that are not located in an MPO, and the board is authorized to be involved in the development of the FDOT work program. The FDOT district engineers or planning staff typically maintain close contacts with the county public works staff and try to be aware of the needs in each county.

The primary opportunity for rural citizens in Florida to influence transportation investment priorities is through their county elected officials who convey needs to FDOT districts. Counties are also required to develop a comprehensive plan under Florida's 1985 Growth Management Act. Most rural counties do not have a transportation planner on staff. Approximately half of the state's 67 counties have fewer than 75,000 residents and so are eligible for state-funded technical assistance from the Florida Association of Counties. The Florida Association of Counties employs three "circuit riders" who provide management assistance to rural counties that request help.

Florida's 11 regional planning councils (RPCs) work closely with the FDOT districts and rural counties on transportation issues. Each RPC also develops a Strategic Regional Policy Plan, which has a transportation element. This plan is required to be consistent with the local comprehensive plans and the statewide comprehensive plan.

In addition to regional policy plans, Florida requires the development of comprehensive plans, including both a land use element and a transportation element, by local governments. FDOT districts review the local plans to ensure consistency with the FDOT's five-year work program. Similarly, the Florida Department of Community Affairs coordinates the review of FDOT's work program and other transportation plans to determine consistency with adopted local comprehensive plans. This multi-level system of plans and reviews helps to promote the coordination of transportation and land use decisions at all government levels.

New and existing MPOs in Florida benefit from the strategic advantage of a foundation of good planning practices:

Policy

FDOT district offices support counties as they begin to form the policy board and bylaws for a new MPO. The decentralized nature of FDOT results in district offices well suited to give timely direction to local officials as they comply with federal MPO guidelines. Florida has guidelines for MPO development that include rules governing voting membership and representation on the MPO governing policy board. The voting membership of an MPO consists of five to nineteen apportioned members determined on an equitable geographic-population ratio basis.
The Lake-Sumter MPO Board consists of elected officials representing all of the local governments in the region, including municipal and county entities. The Board consists of 20 board members (14 voting and six non-voting) representing the communities of the Lake-Sumter region. Each member government appoints an elected official to the MPO Board, along with an alternate representative.

The apportionment of membership on the Lake-Sumter MPO Board includes one voting representative from each of the seven most populated cities in Lake County, including Clermont, Eustis, Lady Lake, Leesburg, Minneola, Mount Dora and Tavares. In addition, five members of the Lake County Board of County Commissioners and one designated county commissioner from the Sumter County Board of County Commissioners are voting members. The seven least populated cities of Lake County share one at-large vote that rotates alphabetically each year. The rotating members are Astatula, Fruitland Park, Groveland, Howey-in-the-Hills, Mascotte, Montverde and Umatilla. During 2005, Astatula held the vote. In 2006, Fruitland Park holds the at-large vote.

As required by state law, the new MPO has established three key advisory groups to provide input to the MPO Board.

CTCs are responsible for the actual provision of transit services, either by directly operating a transit system as in the case of the Sumter County CTC or by contracting with another entity for the provision of services as is the case for the Lake County CTC. The CTCs for both Lake and Sumter counties are the boards of county commissioners. The MPO works with the CTCs on the coordination of services to be provided to the transportation disadvantaged. The MPO conducts planning activities in conjunction with the CTCs. Required planning documents are also produced or updated annually, including but not limited to the Transportation Disadvantaged Service Plan.

Process

New and existing MPOs in Florida benefit from regional entities and organizations that provide technical assistance and support to MPOs. For Lake-Sumter MPO, this is accomplished through the Central Florida MPO Alliance and the Florida MPO Advisory Council (MPOAC).

Regional MPO Alliances

Regional MPO alliances are formed to coordinate regional transportation issues in Florida where many MPOs may exist within a larger metropolitan region. In an effort to foster greater coordination among several MPOs in a region, the Florida state legislature requires the different bodies to coordinate their planning efforts. For example, there are six MPOs in the seven-county region surrounding the city of Tampa. The six MPOs are members of the West Central Florida MPO Chairs Coordinating Committee (CCC). The purpose of the multi-MPO group is to provide a forum for member MPOs to coordinate the elements for a regional TIP, long range plan, congestion management report, and a coordination report. The CCC also has a regional public involvement plan and a regional citizens' advisory committee.

The multi-MPO planning process for the greater Orlando metropolitan area is called the Central Florida MPO Alliance. The Central Florida MPO Alliance was originally formed in June 1997 when the metropolitan planning organization for Orlando formally entered into an agreement to coordinate transportation planning activities with the Volusia County MPO. The success of the Orlando-Volusia MPO Alliance led to coordination with the remaining counties in the region so that other transportation needs and regional issues could be addressed. The Central Florida MPO Alliance was officially established in January 2001 with the membership including Brevard, Lake, Orange, Osceola, Seminole, Polk, and Volusia counties. The member counties included four MPOs at the time and rural Lake County. Since 2001 Lake County has become an MPO with portions of Sumter County, and two additional transportation planning organizations have joined from Ocala-Marion County and Polk County. In addition, the Volusia County MPO has expanded to include a portion of Flagler County.

Lake County found a great opportunity to learn and understand regional planning processes by joining the Central Florida MPO Alliance to coordinate regional projects and address regional challenges. The Central Florida MPO Alliance prepares a long range transportation plan for the seven-county region that lists specific goals and objectives and prioritizes regional projects. This regional plan promotes consistency among the various local planning efforts within the region's MPOs, resulting in more efficient and coordinated use of transportation resources.

The Central Florida MPO Alliance has also proven helpful to the Lake-Sumter MPO by sharing lessons learned and expertise with the new MPO. The Alliance members collaborate on legislative priorities to maintain needed state transportation funding. The Central Florida MPO Alliance serves as a model of how a new MPO can join and benefit from regional collaboration

MPOAC

All Florida MPOs are also represented on the Florida MPOAC. The MPOAC is a statewide transportation planning council created by the Florida Legislature to augment the role of the individual MPOs in the cooperative transportation planning process. The MPOAC assists the MPOs in carrying out the urbanized area transportation planning process by serving as the principal forum for collective policy discussion. The MPOAC also provides a support network for new Florida MPOs.

Table: Lake-Sumter MPO Summary

Planning Area

Notable Practice

Strategy

  • MPO boundaries often follow county boundaries even if the urbanized area covers a smaller area.
  • The county board of commissioners is authorized to be involved in transportation policy for rural areas.

Policy

  • The voting membership of any MPO policy board in the state is determined on an equitable geographic-population ratio basis set by state policy.
  • A coordinating board representing the transportation disadvantaged identifies the local needs of the transportation disadvantaged population and investigates alternatives to meet those needs. The primary purpose of the coordinating board is to assist the MPO in identifying local service needs and in providing information, advice and direction to the transit service provider in each county.

Process

  • New MPOs in Florida benefit from regional entities and organizations that provide support to MPOs.
  • Advance planning and support from the state department of transportation district office
  • Regional MPO alliances
  • State MPO advisory council

Contacts

T.J. Fish, Lake-Sumter MPO, 352-253-4986, tjfish@LakeSumterMPO.com
Jeff Kramer, Center for Urban Transportation Research, kramer@cutr.usf.edu

Websites

Lake Sumter MPO http://www.lakesumtermpo.com/
Florida MPO Advisory Council http://www.mpoac.org/

Updated: 03/26/2013
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