> The TPB
The Transportation Planning Board
The National Capital Region Transportation Planning Board (TPB) is
the federally designated Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) for
the region, and plays an important role as the regional forum for transportation
planning. The TPB prepares plans and programs that the federal government
must approve in order for federal-aid transportation funds to flow to
the Washington region.
Members of the TPB include
representatives of local governments; state transportation agencies;
the Maryland and Virginia General Assemblies; the Washington
Metropolitan Area Transit Authority; and non-voting members from
the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority
and federal agencies. The TPB has an extensive public
involvement process, and provides a 30-day public
comment period before taking action on plans and programs.
The TPB's planning area covers the
District of Columbia and surrounding jurisdictions. In Maryland these
jurisdictions include Charles County, Frederick County, Montgomery County, and Prince
George's County, plus the cities of Bowie, College Park, Frederick, Gaithersburg,
Greenbelt, Rockville, and Takoma Park. In Virginia, the planning area
includes Alexandria, Arlington County, the City of Fairfax, Fairfax
County, Falls Church, Loudoun County, The Cities of Manassas and Manassas Park, and Prince William County.
History of the TPB
The TPB was created in 1965 by the region's local and state governments
to respond to federal highway legislation in 1962 that required the
establishment of a "continuing, comprehensive and coordinated" transportation
planning process in every urbanized area in the United States. Federal
Highway and transit legislation required the establishment of planning
bodies, which later became known as Metropolitan Planning Organizations
(MPOs), when it became clear that the construction of major transportation
projects through and around urban areas needed to be coordinated with
local and state jurisdictions.
The TPB is today one of the 384
MPOs across America. According to federal law, an MPO must be designated
in every urbanized area with a population over 50,000. The TPB is designated
as this region's MPO by the governors of Virginia and Maryland and the
mayor of Washington based upon an agreement among the local governments.
The TPB became associated with the Metropolitan Washington Council
of Governments (COG) in 1966. COG was established in 1957 by local cities
and counties to deal with regional concerns including growth, housing,
environment, public health and safety - as well as transportation. Although
the TPB is an independent body, its staff is provided by COG's Department
of Transportation Planning.
TPB's Major Roles
The TPB does not exercise direct control over funding and does not
implement projects, but it does perform a range of activities that promote
an integrated approach to transportation development. The requirements
of federal law compel the key transportation players in the region to
work through the TPB process. The TPB exercises its basic role as a
coordinating agency in several ways:
- The TPB ensures compliance with federal laws and requirements.
Federal requirements inject consistency and coordination into regional
transportation decision-making. The federally mandated metropolitan
planning process requires all MPOs across the country to produce two
basic documents—a long-range plan, which in the Washington region
is called the Financially Constrained
Long-Range Transportation Plan (CLRP), and a Transportation
Improvement Program (TIP), which lists projects and programs that
will be funded in the next six years. Since 2000, the CLRP has used
a planning horizon of 25 years. In order to receive federal funding,
transportation projects must be included in the CLRP and the TIP.
Federal law also requires the TPB to show that the region will
have adequate funds to build the projects listed in these two main
planning documents. The funding for the CLRP and TIP must be “reasonably
expected to be available,” according to federal transportation law
enacted in 1991. This financial constraint is intended to make sure
the different partners in the region’s transportation system are
realistically planning for the future.
In addition, the TPB must make sure that the projects in its CLRP
and the TIP, taken collectively, contribute to air
quality improvement goals for the region. This is a requirement
of the federal Clean
Air Act. The TPB must also comply with federal laws, regulations
and policies stipulating that regional transportation plans must
not disproportionately affect low-income
or minority communities in an adverse way.
- The TPB provides a regional transportation policy framework and
a forum for coordination. While federal law and regulations drive
much of the region’s regular transportation planning activities, the
TPB has also developed a policy framework—known as the Vision—
that is intended to guide the region’s transportation investments
in the new century.
Approved in 1998, the Vision is a long-range document laying out
key goals and strategies that will help the region to develop the
transportation system it needs to sustain economic development,
environmental quality and a high quality of life. The agencies that
implement transportation projects—the states, the District of Columbia,
the regional transit authority and others—must show that the goals
of their projects are consistent with the Vision.
- The TPB provides technical resources for decision-making.
Finally, the TPB is a technical resource. The TPB staff is continually
working in close coordination with the staffs from the local and state
jurisdictions and WMATA, as well as with outside consultants, to produce
numerous studies and analyses. This technical information is essential
for the decisions made by the TPB itself and for the decisions of
the jurisdictions comprising the region.
Technical information and analysis are prepared on a variety of
topics, most of which fit into a few broad categories. Travel monitoring
activities gather information on current travel patterns and conditions.
For example, data is collected on transportation facilities throughout
the region to assess the performance of highway and transit facilities.
Congestion levels are calculated based upon measures of the average
number of cars per lane-mile of highway. Personal travel patterns
are also surveyed to determine how people are traveling, for what
purpose and how far.
forecasting develops predictions about future travel conditions.
The TPB staff develops these forecasts using computer programs (“models”)
whose inputs include assumptions about the future, including projected
population and job growth, data about planned or potential improvements
in the transportation system, and assumptions about future travel
demand. The model’s outputs produce travel forecasts that inform
a variety of decisions, such as helping to determine how various
transportation investments will affect mobility in the region. Information
about current and future travel conditions is used for a number
of purposes—especially for the regional air quality analysis required
by the federal Clean Air
Act Amendments of 1990, as amended. Technical data produced
by the TPB staff are also used by other jurisdictions and agencies.
The states, the District of Columbia and WMATA (the regional transit
authority) use TPB data on a regular basis to plan and operate their
services and facilities.