The Innovative MPO

Smart planning, smart communities

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America today is a metropolitan nation: More than 85 percent of us live in metro areas large and small. That makes planning for how people and goods move within and through these metropolitan areas more critical than ever. You may never even consider the fact, but chances are, your commute this morning was shaped by the work of a metropolitan planning organization – and not only your commute, but also your entire metro region, to some degree. The organizations who are tasked with providing that guidance are known as metropolitan planning organizations (MPOs).

The last several years have seen a surge in innovative thinking and practice among MPOs nationwide, and their work has inspired this new, free guidebook to help MPO staff, board members, and civic leaders find innovative ways to make communities prosper. The Innovative MPO is designed to offer a range of new ideas in planning, programming, technical analysis and community partnership, from those that cost little in staff time or dollars to more complex and expensive undertakings.

MPOs can push the envelope and innovate — whether to stretch public resources, achieve multiple benefits with a transportation dollar or simultaneously advance regional and economic development priorities. This new guidebook provides ideas how.

The guidebook includes:

  • Foreword by Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard.
  • All 30 tools across seven different areas of focus, with almost 100 real-world examples from 50 MPOs.
  • 20 detailed case study examples of innovation in action from MPOs in regions large and small.
  • MPO 101 appendix with a simple, clear explanation of what MPOs are and what they do.

Download individual focus areas

The full report above has all seven areas of focus and the appendix, but you can also choose to download only individual chapters (focus areas) with the links below. PDF links, more information and the MPOs featured in each chapter can be found below:


Focus Area 1: Create an effective and visionary long-range transportation plan

  • Fully leverage federal planning factors
  • Make scenario planning a standard practice
  • Prioritize regional centers
  • Deploy innovative modeling tools
  • Plan for economic competitiveness

MPOs featured: Austin, TX (CAMPO); Boise, ID (COMPASS); Broward County, FL; Chicago, IL (CMAP); Dallas-Ft. Worth, TX (NCTCOG); Denver, CO (DRCOG); Kansas City, MO/KS (MARC); Minneapolis-St. Paul, MN (Met Council); Nashville, TN (Nashville Area MPO); Phoenix, AZ (MAG); Portland, OR (Metro); Sacramento, CA (SACOG); Salt Lake City, UT (WFRC); San Diego, CA (SANDAG); San Francisco-Oakland-San Jose, CA (MTC); San Luis Obispo, CA (SLOCOG); Seattle-Tacoma, WA (PSRC); Wilmington, DE (WILMAPCO)

Download Focus Area 1

Focus Area 2: Engage communities in regional decision-making

  • Make involvement engaging
  • Reach out physically and virtually
  • Be innovative with high-tech tools
  • Support community engagement & organizing

MPOs featured: Chattanooga, TN (Chattanooga TPO); Chicago, IL (CMAP); Houma-Thibodaux, LA (HTMPO); Miami-Dade, FL (MDMPO); Minneapolis-St.Paul, MN (Met Council); Missoula, MT; Nashville, TN (Nashville Area MPO); Omaha/Council Bluffs, NE/IA (MAPA); Orlando, FL (Metroplan); Tulsa, OK (InCOG); Washington DC (MWCOG)

Download Focus Area 2

Focus Area 3: Fully utilize all available funding tools

  • Match funding criteria with long-range goals
  • Establish funding set-asides
  • Blend funding programs to maximize eligibility
  • Take advantage of federal flexible funding provisions
  • Align MPO processes to enable public private partnerships

MPOs featured: Atlanta, GA (ARC); Dallas-Fort Worth, TX (NCTCOG); Denver, CO (DRCOG); Flagstaff, AZ (FMPO);; Houston-Galveston, TX (HGAC); Kansas City, MO/KS (MARC); Portland, OR (Metro); San Diego, CA (SANDAG); San Joaquin, CA (SJCOG); Seattle-Tacoma, WA (PSRC); St. Louis, MO (E-W COG)

Download Focus Area 3

Focus Area 4: Use Data to Make Smart Investments

  • Establish comprehensive performance measures
  • Prioritize maintenance and safety to maximize ROI
  • Analyze combined housing + transportation costs
  • Perform health Impact assessments
  • Address regional disparities

MPOs featured: Austin, TX (CAPCOG); Champaign-Urbana, IL (CUUATS); Charlottesville, VA (TJPDC); Chattanooga, TN (Chattanooga TPO); Houston, TX (H-GAC); Kansas City, MO/KS (MARC); Knoxville, TN (KRTPO); Nashville, TN (Nashville Area MPO); Newark-Jersey City, NJ (NJTPA); Sacramento, CA (SACOG); San Francisco-Oakland-San Jose, CA (MTC); Savannah, GA (CORE); Seattle-Tacoma, WA (PSRC); Springfield, MA (PVPC); St. Louis, MO/IL (E-W COG)

Download Focus Area 4

Focus Area 5: Provide technical assistance and collaborate with local communities

  • Assist localities in deploying new tools & policies
  • Adopt & implement Complete Streets regionally
  • Establish a livable communities program

MPOs featured: Akron, OH (AMATS); Albany, NY (CDTC); Atlanta, GA (ARC); Columbus, OH (MORPC); Chattanooga, TN/GA (Chattanooga TPO); Indianapolis, IN (IMPO); Kansas City, MO/KS (MARC); Nashville, TN (Nashville Area MPO); Portland (METRO); Tampa, FL (Hillsborough MPO); Washington, DC (MWCOG)

Download Focus Area 5

Focus Area 6: Make freight work for your region

  • Mitigate land use and freight conflicts
  • Develop freight profiles and advisors
  • Integrate with MTP
  • Address environmental justice impacts

MPOs featured: Huntington/Ashland/Ironton, WV/KY/OH (KYOVA); Chicago, IL (CMAP); Toledo, OH (TMACOG); Memphis, TN (Memphis MPO); Pittsburgh, PA (SPC); Duluth-Superior, MN (MIC); Seattle/Tacoma, WA (PSRC); Washington, DC (MWCOG); Philadelphia, PA/NJ (DVRPC); Los Angeles, CA (SCAG); Houston-Galveston, TX (H-GAC)

Download Focus Area 6

Focus Area 7: Going beyond transportation

  • Plan for disasters; Prepare to respond
  • Align infrastructure with environmental goals
  • Address climate change mitigation & adaption
  • Partner to promote regional workforce goals

MPOs featured: Chicago, IL (CMAP); Cincinnati, OH (OKI); Duluth-Superior, MN (MIC); Houston-Galveston, TX (H-GAC);Huntington/Ashland/Ironton, WV/KY/OH (KYOVA); Los Angeles, CA (SCAG); Memphis, TN (Memphis MPO); Philadelphia, PA/NJ (DVRPC); Pittsburgh, PA (SPC); Seattle/Tacoma, WA (PSRC); Toledo, OH (TMACOG); Washington, DC (MWCOG)

Download Focus Area 7

MPO report focus area appendix

  • History, context and evolution of metropolitan transportation planning

Download MPO 101

Download the full guidebook

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Click here or above to download this new guidebook to help MPO staff, board members, and civic leaders find innovative ways to make communities prosper through the work of MPOs. (14 mb PDF)

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What’s an MPO?

Largely creatures of federal law, MPOs exist to provide regional coordination of transportation investments, while ensuring that the public can participate in the decision-making process. Want to know more background? Download the MPO 101 appendix from the guidebook.

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Featured MPOs

The following MPOs are featured either in case studies or shorter examples throughout the guidebook:

Austin, TX (CAMPO)
Akron, OH (AMATS)
Albany, NY (CDTC)
Atlanta, GA (ARC)
Austin, TX (CAPCOG)
Boise, ID (COMPASS)
Broward County, FL
Champaign-Urbana, IL (CUUATS)
Charlottesville, VA (TJPDC)
Chattanooga, TN/GA (Chattanooga TPO)
Chicago, IL (CMAP)
Cincinnati, OH (OKI)
Columbus, OH (MORPC)
Dallas-Fort Worth, TX (NCTCOG)
Denver, CO (DRCOG)
Duluth-Superior, MN (MIC)
Flagstaff, AZ (FMPO);
Houma-Thibodaux, LA (HTMPO)
Houston-Galveston, TX (H-GAC)
Huntington/Ashland/Ironton, WV/KY/OH (KYOVA)
Indianapolis, IN (IMPO)
Kansas City, MO/KS (MARC)
Knoxville, TN (KRTPO)
Los Angeles, CA (SCAG)
Memphis, TN (Memphis MPO)
Miami-Dade, FL (MDMPO)
Minneapolis-St. Paul, MN (Met Council)
Missoula, MT
Nashville, TN (Nashville Area MPO)
Newark-Jersey City, NJ (NJTPA)
Omaha/Council Bluffs, NE/IA (MAPA)
Orlando, FL (Metroplan)
Philadelphia, PA/NJ (DVRPC)
Phoenix, AZ (MAG)
Pittsburgh, PA (SPC)
Portland, OR (Metro)
Sacramento, CA (SACOG)
Salt Lake City, UT (WFRC)
San Diego, CA (SANDAG)
San Francisco-Oakland-San Jose, CA (MTC)
San Joaquin, CA (SJCOG)
San Luis Obispo, CA (SLOCOG)
Savannah, GA (CORE)
Seattle-Tacoma, WA (PSRC)
Springfield, MA (PVPC)
St. Louis, MO/IL (E-W COG)
Tampa, FL (Hillsborough MPO)
Toledo, OH (TMACOG)
Tulsa, OK (InCOG)
Washington DC (MWCOG)
Wilmington, DE (WILMAPCO)