The 4 Steps of Good Transportation Planning

Metropolitan Planning Organizations (MPOs) in collaboration with their member jurisdictions make decisions on how to best...
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Metropolitan Planning Organizations (MPOs) in collaboration with their member jurisdictions make decisions on how to best invest federal, state, and local taxes into the regional transportation system.  They strive to make improvements in safety, modernize the system, enable accessibility to more people, contribute to larger societal goals, and expand the system strategically.  MPOs plan, program, and fund all sorts of projects, from reconstructing highway interchanges and arterial corridors, to replacing public transit buses and building new bike/ped facilities, all for the sake of progressing towards the MPO’s established transportation goals.

As part of this overall decision-making process, MPOs strive to ensure that the concerns and issues of all those with a stake in transportation decision-making are identified and addressed.  MPOs engage the general public and stakeholders under the broad heading of “Public Engagement”. 

So, how do we measure success? How do we know when we’ve done a “good job” engaging the public?

It depends. It depends on what our goals are. Here are some goals for your consideration. 


Inform the public to the maximum extent possible of available resources as well as opportunities to participate in the transportation decision-making process and planning initiatives. Some useful questions to ask:

  • Do we regularly share relevant information with committee members, member jurisdictions, and the public?
  • Is our website up to date?
  • Do we have a relationship with the local media?
  • Do we have a Citizens’ Academy (or equivalent) to provide opportunities for the public to learn about the transportation planning process?


Involve the public early and often in the transportation planning process by asking:

  • Do we offer opportunities for diverse representation on committees?
  • Do we offer regular, on-site updates with the governing bodies of member jurisdictions?
  • Did we consider public input as a project selection criterion?


Proactively develop relationships with other organizations within the planning area to increase the opportunity for their participation in transportation planning. This could mean answering the following:

  • Do we share documents and involvement opportunities with local and regional planning departments and community organizations?
  • Do we participate in other regional initiatives?


Continually identify and implement ways to improve the public participation processes, and honestly ask:

  • Do we set aside time to catch up on the best practices?
  • Do we de-brief with our team after public engagement campaigns to discuss lessons learned?
  • Do we ask our stakeholders to share their experiences (good and bad) with our organization?
  • Do we set aside a budget for cost effective tools that can help us accomplish our public engagement goals?

Earning, respecting, and maintaining the public’s trust is perhaps the most important jobs MPOs do.  We take that job seriously and are working to improve how our ProjectTracker tool can help you achieve your public engagement goals.  We’d love to hear from you on how we can best do that.  You can reach us at

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