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Thread: Regional planning areas

  1. #1
    Cyburbian Hawkeye66's avatar
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    Regional planning areas

    What are your thoughts on planning areas and how they are set up geographically? Generally, they are set up as regions within states. There are some multi-state planning areas, but only in the larger population areas. So in a lot of cases you have groups of small and mid size towns up to 30 or 40 K with multi (normally bi-state) state population areas of 50,000 or more who do no coordinated planning but are parts of larger regions within their states. This is especially true for transportation planning. If you have a small city of 30 to 50 K that is alone in a region, the STP funding is messed up because its thrown in with rural overlay projects, etc.

    Is it hard to form new planning areas? Harder across state lines?

  2. #2
    Cyburbian wahday's avatar
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    I think the biggest challenge is that often regional planning authorities have, well, no real authority. Often, they do a lot of studies and make concrete recommendations on things that should be done, but in the end they have no real power to enforce those recommendations. Each participating municipality within the region must opt in. This may be less the case with transportation than other areas (as these responsibilities may be state mandated), but even then, the lines get blurry.

    A common problem, for example, is the challenge of curtailing sprawl (which, subsequently, impacts transportation as new road systems and population centers are created). The regional authority may recommend a particular approach to encouraging denser infill, but if just one participant (say, a neighboring county to a larger city) does not opt-in, they end up attracting commercial development and housing sprawl because they see that it will help fill their coffers (and as a less dense area, they may desperately need that revenue because they have a smaller tax base). This kind of leapfrog development is just the kind of thing regional planning authorities are trying to get a handle on, but implementing it successfully is a challenge.

    FWIW...
    The purpose of life is a life of purpose

  3. #3
    Cyburbian DetroitPlanner's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Hawkeye66 View post
    Is it hard to form new planning areas? Harder across state lines?
    MPOs are defined by the Census. Governance varies quite a bit between MPOs. The more complex the urban area, the more complex the governance. I've seen examples of multistate MPOs, but these are typically huge cities that fall real close to the border. An example of this is Philly. Detroit and Buffalo would be in the same boat, but part of their urban regions lie in a different country making things real difficult to coordinate as all planning laws are quite different, even how EIS'es are done are different, making a crossing project difficult.

    Our MPO includes 2 greater than 200,000 pop areas, slivers of 2 two other greater than 200,000 pop areas, and three greater than 50,000 pop areas as well as 3 small urbans, and a whole slew of rural area. Of the slivers, one is made at a state line, and there is some inter-MPO coordination that happens for that portion of the urban area. The other sliver is literally about 2 blocks and about 100 people.


    You're right it gets sort of sticky with the small urbans and the rural being mixed in, but they fall in the envelope of the larger MPO boundary. Small urbans get their STP awarded at the state level, to help balance off the needs statewide with a relatively small pot of dollars. The MPO process prioritizes the needs of the rural area in similar fashion to the needs of the urban areas.

    Planning areas that are required to demonstrate air quality conformity have more power than those that do not in terms of having some teeth, but it is quite difficult to carry a big stick when it comes to land use decisions. You can point them in the right direction, but you can't force a local community to implement access management or provide better transit.

    When I visited my sister in Orange County, I was pretty blown away at how well they manage land-use and transportation issues together, but this is due to necessity of being part of a super-mega region with serious air quality and land use issues. It almost seems like they 'get it' better than any other part of the US or Canada that I have experienced.
    We hope for better things; it will arise from the ashes - Fr Gabriel Richard 1805

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    Cyburbian ColoGI's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by DetroitPlanner View post
    When I visited my sister in Orange County, I was pretty blown away at how well they manage land-use and transportation issues together, but this is due to necessity of being part of a super-mega region with serious air quality and land use issues. It almost seems like they 'get it' better than any other part of the US or Canada that I have experienced.
    CA is frequently a leading indicator. Often out of necessity.

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    Cyburbian mike gurnee's avatar
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    I worked in an area covered by the KYOVA (KY-OH-WV) regional transportation MPO. Staff struggled dealing with three state DOTs. The largest city was Huntington, WV with 75,000. Lots of small towns and rural areas. While I was there KY pulled out and created their own MPO. The regional agency still goes by KYOVA. Go figure.

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    Cyburbian Hawkeye66's avatar
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    Thats our problem. We are a small city and we continually get shorted on STP funding. These RPA's also subvert the intent of actually spending on roads that have traffic. The RPA's often just sub-allocate based on population. Meanwhile the two small towns right across the border from us are not involved in any sort of planning coordination. We are in meetings with towns 100 miles from us. Its insane.

  7. #7
    Cyburbian DetroitPlanner's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Hawkeye66 View post
    Thats our problem. We are a small city and we continually get shorted on STP funding. These RPA's also subvert the intent of actually spending on roads that have traffic. The RPA's often just sub-allocate based on population. Meanwhile the two small towns right across the border from us are not involved in any sort of planning coordination. We are in meetings with towns 100 miles from us. Its insane.
    I can't tell if you're being screwed or just don't understand how to best utilize the process. If you're sure of this, you could contact your regional MPO and state DOT and complain. However, you need to be sure of your claims first because retribution could bite you on the butt. Remember, urban funding gets apportioned by formula to areas greater than 50,000. If you're under that, maybe you need to explore how to best apply for STP small urban/rural dollars wether it be at the State or regional level.

    The federal funding process is complicated, but from what I've seen in my state, it is fair. What you consider to be 'traffic' may be nothing when compared to many streets. Its all relative.
    We hope for better things; it will arise from the ashes - Fr Gabriel Richard 1805

  8. #8
    Corn Burning Fool giff57's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Hawkeye66 View post
    . The RPA's often just sub-allocate based on population..
    How they allocate funds is up to the TAC and the Exec Board. Many sub-allocate because it is easier than going through a project by project competitive process. The members of the boards can also be changed. Look at how SEIRPC does it down here.
    “As soon as public service ceases to be the chief business of the citizens, and they would rather serve with their money than with their persons, the State is not far from its fall”
    Jean-Jacques Rousseau

  9. #9
    Cyburbian Hawkeye66's avatar
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    Well yes they can be changed. However, the other members have no interest in changing it. Some RPA's sub allocate and some are totally competitive. A mix would be better than what we have now.

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