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Rapidly Urbanizing/Research Methodology

The research was conducted in several general steps. The first step was a search of literature and Internet resources to gather relevant information on the long-range transportation planning processes for metropolitan and rural areas. Additional steps included: selection of sample case studies, identification of planning topics for discussion, additional Internet research, detailed telephone interviews with metropolitan planning organization staff, and follow-up interviews with staff of state and regional governments responsible for transportation planning. In person interviews were conducted for one case study area to provide additional context and more in-depth discussion of the planning topics from different points of view. The initial literature search also provided documentation of additional case studies and peer examples in research reports about similar material.

Literature Review

The following recent studies of either the metropolitan planning process or state department of transportation rural planning practices were reviewed as background for the identification of planning topics for discussion.

Selection of Case Studies

The process for selecting case studies began by identifying newly urbanized areas and the fastest growing metropolitan statistical areas (MSA) and counties. The search focused on newly designated urbanized areas as of Census 1990 and Census 2000 and on metropolitan planning organizations (MPO) and transportation management areas (TMA) in rapidly growing metropolitan areas with adjacent rural regions that are likely to become urbanized by 2010. An initial long list of possible case studies was compiled from the following:

The long list included about 115 fast growing MSA, urbanized areas and counties. The process of reducing the many examples to a few notable case studies was based on an iterative process of review and comparison. The list was reviewed to identify general distribution in terms of geography (areas of the United States) and population size. The purpose was to identify a shorter list of possible case studies that reflected a good cross-section of the national trends. Approximately 22 potential case study areas were selected as representative of geographic and population distribution. The fast-growth urban areas were most prevalent in the south, southwest, and western parts of the United States. The potential case studies were selected from states in each of these geographical areas. The largest number of urban centers categorized as rapidly growing was in the range of 50,000 to 200,000 population. The majority of potential case studies also fell into this range of population, although larger MSA that were expanding urban areas were also identified as possible case study selections.

The next step in the selection of case studies was a search of the Internet to examine the website for the MPO in each of the 22 potential case study areas. The purpose of reviewing websites was to identify information that either directly or indirectly evidenced a proactive effort to incorporate rural areas that are rapidly urbanizing into the metropolitan planning process. The relevant state departments of transportation, TMA, MPO, and regional planning commissions (RPC) were identified while reviewing the websites. Planning documents were obtained from the MPO websites, reviewed, and follow-up interviews were conducted with planning directors and staff. The final five case studies were selected based on the planning practices of the MPO, geographic distribution, and the availability of transportation planning information on the respective websites. A larger urban area, Austin-Round Rock and in Travis County and parts of Williamson County, Texas was selected as a sixth case study to represent an existing urban area where population growth is rapidly expanding into the surrounding (formerly) rural counties.

The table below provides the population data for the MSA for each selected case study

Table: Selected Case Studies, Metropolitan Statistical Area Population Growth 1990-2000

Metropolitan Statistical Area Population Change 1990 to 2000
Number Percent
Lake County, FL 152,104 210,528 58,424 39%
Dalton, GA 98,609 120,031 21,422 22%
Coeur d'Alene, ID 69,795 108,685 38,890 56%
Bowling Green, KY 87,030 104,166 17,136 20%
St. George, UT 48,560 90,354 41,794 86%
Austin-Round Rock, TX 846,227 1,249,763 403,536 48%

Source: U.S. Bureau of the Census

Responsible individuals were then contacted by telephone to discuss more particularly their experiences. The following technical memorandum provides case examples of innovative multimodal transportation planning practice by states and metropolitan planning organizations to include rural communities in the metropolitan transportation planning processes.

Planning Topics

After review of the literature, four planning topics were identified to focus the interviews and other research. The goal was to identify topic areas that are important in the transition to a multimodal metropolitan planning process. For each case study, area experiences or practices were categorized in three or four of the planning topics identified in the Table below. Only the pertinent planning topics are addressed for each case study experience.

Table: Planning Topics for Case Studies

Planning Topic Experiences or Practices
Strategy Use of vision, goals, or early action initiatives
Policy Establishing guidelines or committee structures to involve stakeholders in policy discussions, especially stakeholders from rapidly urbanizing rural areas
Process Methods to facilitate regional planning and coordination among agencies and local governments
Technical Projecting development and land use; forecasting population and employment; developing a travel demand model; conducting a travel study

In some instances, the case studies are supplemented with information from a neighboring MPO or urban area within the case study area's region or state to provide perspective and/or comparison.

Updated: 3/7/2012
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