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Frequently Asked Questions

What is an MPO?
Metropolitan Planning Organizations are part of a federal process to conduct local transportation planning in urbanized areas. The federal government requires urbanized areas to establish a planning process that is comprehensive, continuing and cooperative (the three C's of transportation planning). The MPO process is required in urbanized areas over 50,000 in population in order to receive federal funding for transportation.  The MPO process is a partnership between the local, state and federal governments to make decisions about transportation planning in urbanized areas and to meet planning requirements established by federal authorizing legislation for transportation funding.

What is the Charlotte Regional Transportation Planning Organization (CRTPO)?
The Charlotte Regional Transportation Planning Organization (CRTPO) is a multi-jurisdictional of local governments, NCDOT, USDOT and other providers of transportation services.  CRTPO is currently comprised of the following member governments: Iredell County, Mooresville, Statesville, Troutman in Iredell County.    Charlotte, Cornelius, Davidson, Huntersville, Matthews, Mecklenburg County, Mint Hill, and Pineville in Mecklenburg County.  Fairview, Indian Trail, Marshville,  MarvinMineral Springs, Monroe, Stallings, Union County, Waxhaw, Weddington, Wesley Chapel and Wingate each have voting representatives from Union County.

What are the major functions of CRTPO?
It is CRTPO’s responsibility to coordinate transportation policy for local governmental jurisdictions within the Charlotte Urbanized Area, as well as develop transportation plans and programs for the urbanized area in cooperation with the State.  Cooperatively, CRTPO works with the North Carolina Department of Transportation (NCDOT), the Charlotte Area Transit System (CATS), the Charlotte Department of Transportation (CDOT), and its member jurisdictions to develop transportation plans, travel models, thoroughfare plans, transit plans and bicycle and pedestrian plans.  CRTPO also works with NCDOT on issues such as funding for transportation improvements, project planning, environmental impacts and air quality.  Additionally, CRTPO works with local governments to coordinate land use and transportation planning. 

What are key documents produced by the metropolitan and statewide planning processes?
The Unified Planning Work Program (UPWP): The UPWP lists the transportation studies and tasks to be performed by the MPO staff or a member agency. The UPWP covers a one- to two-year period. It typically contains several elements:

The planning tasks (e.g., data collection and analysis, public outreach, and preparation of the plan and TIP), the supporting studies, and the products that will result from these activities;

  • All federally funded studies as well as all relevant state and local planning activities conducted without federal funds;
  • Funding sources identified for each project;
  • A schedule of activities; and
  • The agency responsible for each task or study.

How is the public involved?
Throughout the entire transportation planning process the MPO must provide the public with reasonable opportunity to participate, comment and be heard. The MPO must develop a public involvement plan that outlines for the public their opportunities to be involved in the transportation planning process.  MPOs must prepare a public participation plan. Plan must be proactive and provide for:

  • Complete information and timely public notice
  • Early and continuous  involvement
  • Full public access to key decisions
  • Explicit consideration and response to input
  • Consider the needs of all populations

The CRTPO’s Public Involvement Plan was updated in 2017 and can be viewed here

The Metropolitan Transportation Plan (MTP) /(LRTP): In metropolitan areas, the transportation plan is the statement of the ways the region plans to invest in the transportation system. Per the federal regulations, the plan shall "include both long-range and short-range program strategies/actions that lead to the development of an integrated intermodal transportation system that facilitates the efficient movement of people and goods."
The plan addresses, for example:

  • Policies, strategies, and projects for the future;
  • A systems level approach by considering roadways, transit, non-motorized transportation, and intermodal connections;
  • Projected demand for transportation services over 20 years;
  • Regional land use, development, housing, and employment goals and plans;
  • Cost estimates and reasonably available financial sources for operation, maintenance, and capital investments (see Part II section on Financial Planning and Programming); and
  • Ways to preserve existing roads and facilities and make efficient use of the existing system.
    The Transportation Plan and the long-range statewide transportation plan must be consistent with each other. The MTP must be updated every four years in air quality non-attainment and maintenance areas and 5 years in attainment areas.

Transportation Improvement Program (TIP): In the TIP, the MPO identifies the transportation projects and strategies from the MTP that it plans to undertake over the next four years. All projects receiving federal funding must be in the TIP. The TIP is the region’s way of allocating its limited transportation resources among the various capital and operating needs of the area.
Under federal law, the TIP:
Covers a minimum four-year period of investment;

  • Is updated at least every four years;
  • Fiscally constrained, i.e. Is realistic in terms of available funding and is not just a "wish list" of projects.
  • Conforms with the SIP for air quality in nonattainment and maintenance areas;
  • Is approved by the MPO and the governor; and
  • Is incorporated directly, without change, into the Statewide Transportation Improvement Program (STIP).

In accordance with federal regulations, the MPO is required to carry out metropolitan transportation planning in cooperation with the state and with operators of publicly owned transit services. The MPO approves the transportation plan. Both the governor and the MPO approve the TIP.

Most MPOs will not take the lead in implementing transportation projects, but will provide an overall coordination role in planning and programming

Congestion Management Process (CMP): The congestion management process (CMP) is a way of systematically considering congestion-related issues using a set of technical tools, and basing evaluations on a discrete set of locally determined performance measures. A CMP provides for the systematic review of performance of multimodal transportation systems in larger metropolitan areas and identification of strategies to address congestion through the use of "management" strategies focused on both the use and operation of facilities and services.
A CMP should help the MPO to:

  • Develop alternative strategies to mitigate congestion;
  • Determine the cause of congestion;
  • Identify congested locations;
  • Evaluate the potential of different strategies;
  • Evaluate the impacts of previously implemented strategies; and
  • Propose alternative strategies that best address the causes and impacts of congestion.

How are MPOs established?
MPOs are established in every urbanized area in the country with a population over 50,000. Urbanized areas are defined every ten years by the U.S. Census.  In North Carolina, MPOs are determined by agreement between the Governor and the MPO.  MPOs are established by a Memorandum of Understanding which is signed by all participating local governments and by the State of North Carolina.

How many MPOs are there in North Carolina?
CRTPO is one of 18 urban areas in North Carolina, which participate in the 3-C transportation planning process. Others include AshevilleFrench Broad River (Asheville), Burlington, Cabarrus-Rowan, Durham-Chapel Hill-Carrboro, Fayetteville, Gaston-Cleveland-Lincoln, Goldsboro, Greensboro, Greenville, Hickory-Newton-Conover, High Point, Jacksonville, New Bern, Raleigh, Rocky Mount, Wilmington, and Winston-Salem. The Grand Strand MPO (Myrtle Beach, SC) extends into North Carolina.

Who makes decisions for the MPO?
All decisions are made by the Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO), with recommendations from the Technical Coordinating Committee (TCC). The membership and voting structures of these committees are established through a Memorandum of Understanding between all of the participating governments.

  • MPO – The policy-making body made up of elected officials from each of the member governments, and the Board of Transportation. 
  • TCC – Staff level committee that provides recommendations to the MPO regarding transportation decisions.

What is the Lead Planning Agency?
The City of Charlotte's Planning Department is the Lead Planning Agency for CRTPO.  The MPO staff is made up of members of the Planning Department staff, with assistance provided by the Charlotte Department of Transportation (CDOT) (CDOT staff is responsible for the regional travel demand model.)   Responsibilities of the staff include conducting planning studies, forecasting travel demand and patterns, and preparing meeting materials for and implementing directives of the MPO and TCC.  In addition, staff provides technical expertise to all of the member MPO jurisdictions.

How can I participate and/or provide feedback to the MPO?
All MPO meetings are open to the public and there is an item on each MPO agenda that allows for public comment.  Anyone may sign up to speak about relevant issues during this comment period and will be given an allotted time to do so.  In addition, CRTPO has various opportunities for public involvement throughout the year, usually regarding specific projects, programs or plans.  You may check the CRTPO website at www.CRTPO.org by clicking the “Upcoming Public Meetings” link to find out if any public meetings are scheduled.  The CRTPO website also has a “Contact Us” link which can be utilized for any questions or comments regarding CRTPO related issues.

What are the relationships among the MPO, the state DOT, and other agencies involved in transportation planning and project implementation?
Transportation planning must be cooperative because no single agency has responsibility for the entire transportation system. For example, some roads that are part of the Interstate Highway System (IHS) are subject to certain standards and are usually maintained by a state DOT. Others are county arterials or city streets which are designed, operated, and maintained by counties or local municipalities. Transit systems are often built, operated, and maintained by a separate entity.
In metropolitan areas, the MPO is responsible for actively seeking the participation of all relevant agencies and stakeholders in the planning process; similarly, the state DOT is responsible for activities outside metropolitan areas. The MPO and state DOT also work together. For example, a state DOT staff person may sit on the MPO board.
 
What is the relationship between transportation and air quality?
Usage of the transportation system is an influential factor in a region’s air quality. Therefore, the estimated emission of pollutants from motor vehicles is a key consideration in transportation planning. Regions that have nonattainment or maintenance air quality status are required to ensure that emissions from transportation investments are consistent, or in conformity with, levels set forth in state air quality plans. Therefore, state DOTs and MPOs need to have a clear understanding of the air quality-related transportation planning requirements.
 
What is the role of the MPO in air quality planning?
The MPO must ensure that transportation investments in the region do not contribute to the degradation of air.  The MPO must analyze the emission from the MTP and the TIP to demonstrate that motor vehicle emissions do not exceed the emissions levels in the State Implementation Plan. This is a conformity determination.
 
What is financial planning?
Financial planning takes a long-range look at how transportation investments are funded, and at the possible sources of funds. State DOTs, MPOs, and public transportation operators must consider funding needs over both the 20-year period of the metropolitan transportation plan and the 4-year period of TIPs and STIPs. In the MTP MPOs must develop a financial plan that identifies funding sources for needed investments, and demonstrates the reasonably reliable means to maintain and operate the existing federally funded transportation system.
 
What is financial programming?
Financial programming is different from financial planning because programming involves identifying funding sources and implementation timing for specific projects in the State Transportation Improvement Program (STIP) and metropolitan Transportation Improvement Program (TIP), which must cover a period of at least four years and be updated at least every four years. Programming also includes notifying FHWA and FTA of the sources of funds that will likely be used to support each individual transportation project.
 
What is fiscal constraint?
Fiscal constraint is a demonstration of sufficient funds (federal, state, local and private) to implement proposed transportation system improvements, as well as to operate and maintain the entire system, through the comparison of revenues and costs.