On July 1, the annual work program and budget for the Transportation Planning Board and its staff for the coming year went into effect detailing the TPB's ongoing role in meeting regional transportation planning requirements mandated by the federal government, serving as a regional forum for planners, policymakers, and decision-makers, and providing technical resources to aid transportation decision-making in the Washington region.
Nearly all of the work activities included in the Unified Planning Work Program (UPWP) for FY 2013 -- which was, as the UPWP is every year, developed by staff in January and February and approved by the TPB in March -- revolve around the federal government's key requirement that metropolitan planning organizations (MPOs) develop and maintain both long-range transportation plans for their respective regions and shorter-term, six-year spending programs.
The two documents -- formally called the Constrained Long-Range Plan, or CLRP, and the Transportation Improvement Program, or TIP -- bring together all of the regionally significant long-term plans and short-term spending priorities of the regional, state, and local agencies that are responsible for planning, constructing, operating, or maintaining the Washington region's roadways, transit system, or bicycle and pedestrian facilities.
Approximately 6% of the FY 2013 UPWP budget will be spent directly on working with each of the agencies to specify the plan elements and spending priorities that are to be included in the FY 2013 update to the CLRP, amendments to the FY 2013-2018 TIP, and in the next two-year update of the TIP scheduled for next year, and making that information available to the general public in easy-to-read print and online formats.
Another 11% will be spent on efforts to ensure an effective transportation planning process, including strategies to educate the public about the process and to engage them in important activities like helping to identify top near-term, ongoing, and long-term transportation priorities for the region.
Beyond those two core tasks, the FY 2013 UPWP also supports the continued work of several long-standing committees and coordination activities that bring planners and policymakers together to discuss issues of regional concern like congestion, traffic safety, emergency preparedness, and specialized transportation services for persons whose mobility is limited by disabilities or low incomes.
Freight planning, regional bus planning, bicycle and pedestrian planning, airport planning, and the use of management and operations techniques to improve the efficiency of the region's transportation network are the subject of the work of other committees and coordination activities outlined in the UPWP.
Analysis of current and future travel patterns in the region -- accounting for just over half of the budget -- is another major component of the UPWP, informing discussions about the region's transportation future and the ultimate development of the CLRP and TIP.
Each year, the TPB engages in extensive travel monitoring and forecasting activities, including the development of computer models, to predict where, when, and how often people will travel and whether they are likely to drive, take transit, or bike or walk to their destinations. Those predictions are used to assess how well the future transportation system as it is currently planned will affect key indicators of system performance like vehicle-miles of travel, accessibility to jobs, and levels of congestion and delay on the region's roadways and transit systems.
The analysis is also the basis for demonstrating compliance with federal air quality regulations. Each year, the TPB forecasts vehicle-related emissions in the region at least 20 years into the future based on the latest estimates of population and employment growth and where that growth will occur, and the transportation options that are expected to be available to travelers.
The final major component of the TPB's work program for the coming year focuses on providing technical assistance to state and local jurisdictions and transit agencies in studies of local transportation corridors or major projects related to regional transportation goals. Approximately 15% of the budget is dedicated to such assistance, which comes in the form of individual technical projects that use the tools, techniques, or databases developed by the TPB, or bigger studies funded collectively by its members.
As the work program and budget for the coming year, the TPB's FY 2013 Unified Planning Work Program spells out the TPB's ongoing role in coordinating transportation decision-making in the Washington region over the next 12 months. It details the activities that will support the development and ongoing maintenance of the region's long-range transportation plan and six-year spending program, drawing on the coordinated work of the regional, state, and local agencies responsible for the region's transportation system.