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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 urban areas. The federal government requires urban 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 urban 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 urban 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 MPO of local governments, NCDOT, USDOT and other providers of transportation services.  CRTPO is currently comprised of the following member governments: Iredell CountyMooresvilleStatesvilleTroutman in Iredell County.  CharlotteCorneliusDavidsonHuntersvilleMatthewsMecklenburg CountyMint Hill, and Pineville in Mecklenburg County.  FairviewIndian TrailMarshville Marvin,  Mineral SpringsMonroeStallingsUnion CountyWaxhawWeddingtonWesley 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 Urban Area, as well as develop transportation plans and programs for the urban 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 is the Unified Planning Work Program (UPWP)?

The Unified Planning Work Program (UPWP) describes the planning activities that are anticipated for the coming fiscal year and documents the allocation of state and federal funds associated with each planning activity. It includes a listing of the projects, priorities, and work tasks the CRTPO will undertake during the fiscal year. It reflects the CRTPO’s short-range planning needs and is the instrument for coordinating metropolitan planning activities in the CRTPO’s planning area.

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 2023 and can be viewed here.

What is the Metropolitan Transportation Plan (MTP)?

The Metropolitan Transportation Plan (MTP) defines the policies, programs, and projects to reduce congestion, improve safety, support land use plans, and provide mobility choices in the CRTPO planning area. It also addresses the goals and objectives of the CRTPO, the various components of the transportation planning process, socio-economic and financial assumptions, and transportation-related environmental and health issues. The MTP is updated every four years.

The plan evaluates:

  • 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.
What is the Transportation Improvement Program (TIP)?

The Transportation Improvement Program (TIP) identifies the transportation projects and strategies that CRTPO and NCDOT plan to undertake over the next ten years. All projects receiving federal funding must be in the TIP. The TIP is the region’s way of allocating its transportation resources among the various capital and operating needs of the area, based on a clear set of short-term transportation priorities.

The TIP:

  • Is updated at least every two years;
  • Is realistic in terms of available funding and is not just a “wish list” of projects. This concept is known as fiscal constraint;
  • Conforms with the State Implementation Plan (SIP) for air quality (CRTPO is classified as attainment for ozone based on 2015 standard, and  maintenance based upon the 2008 standard);
  • Is approved by the CRTPO and the governor; and
  • Is incorporated directly, without change, into North Carolina’s State Transportation Improvement Program (STIP).

The process by which the NCDOT STIP is developed is known as NCDOT Prioritization.

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. 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.

What is 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 do member jurisdictions get projects funded?

The CRTPO receives direct attributable funds, also known as discretionary grants, to be allocated to member jurisdictions for specific projects on a competitive basis. Project selection is guided by the CRTPO Board-approved Discretionary Grants Program Policy Guide. The Guide prioritizes projects in the region that will utilize federal funds. Selected projects will be added to CRTPO’s MTP and adopted into the TIP.

How are MPOs established?

MPOs are established in every urban area in the country with a population over 50,000. Urban 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 20 urban areas in North Carolina. Others include Asheville, Burlington-Graham, Cabarrus-Rowan, Durham-Chapel Hill-Carrboro, Fayetteville, Gaston-Cleveland-Lincoln, Goldsboro, Greensboro, Greenville, Greater Hickory, High Point, Jacksonville, Myrtle Beach, SC Area, New Bern, Raleigh-Cary, Rocky Mount, Southern Pines*, Wilmington, and Winston-Salem.

* Anticipated formation in 2024 following the 2020 census urban area data release.

Who makes decisions for the MPO?

All decisions are made by the CRTPO Board, 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 the participating governments.

CRTPO Board – The policy-making body made up of elected officials from each of the member governments, the Board of Transportation members representing NCDOT Divisions 10 and 12, and the Metropolitan Transit Commission (MTC).

TCC– Staff level committee representing member jurisdictions within the planning area that provides recommendations to the CRTPO Board regarding transportation decisions.

What is the Lead Planning Agency?

The City of Charlotte is the Lead Planning Agency for CRTPO. The CRTPO staff is made up of members of the City of Charlotte Planning, Design & Development Department, and the Charlotte Department of Transportation. Responsibilities of the staff include conducting planning studies, forecasting travel demand and patterns, and preparing meeting materials for and implementing directives of the Board and TCC. In addition, staff provides technical expertise to all member CRTPO jurisdictions.

How can I participate and/or provide feedback to the MPO?

All CRTPO meetings are open to the public, and there is an item on each CRTPO Board agenda that allows for public comment. Residents may sign up to speak about relevant issues during the monthly comment period and will be given three minutes to speak. In addition, CRTPO has various opportunities for public involvement throughout the year, usually regarding specific projects, programs, or plans. Visit the CRTPO website at and navigate to the “Get Involved” page to learn about upcoming public meetings. 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 is a cooperative process because no single agency has responsibility for the entire multi-modal network 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 municipal streets which are designed, operated, and maintained by 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.

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 (SIP). This is a conformity determination.

CRTPO is classified as attainment for ozone based on 2015 standard, and maintenance based upon the 2008 standard and CRTPO’s TIP must conform with the State Implementation Plan (SIP) for air quality.

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.