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Regional Transportation Planning and Policymaking

The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ASPA as an organization.

By Horace Blake
July 24, 2015

Blake july 15Many regions are examining their transportation needs based on growth and urban renewal. In addition, many rural areas are in need of transportation options for seniors and the poor. Any new MPA graduate seeking a career path may want to examine opportunities available in transportation planning, policy and implementation.

Planning For Regional Transportation Needs     

In order to embrace transportation planning needs, Texas’s large metropolitan areas have embarked on a comprehensive transportation plan to define their visions. Here in North Texas the defining vision for the region’s multimodal transportation system encompasses a variety of transportation options to be readily available to the region’s travelers. This regional transportation needs (RTN) plan is a combination of light rail system, buses, high occupancy vehicle lanes (HOV) and shared van rides.

Many local residents are not keen on getting out of their cars to embrace shared commute. This has prompted policymakers to embark on public service announcements, educational venues and scheduled area wide meetings. This is to solicit and garner citizen support through participation in a workshop type evaluation plan led by professional transportation planners.

Structure of a Regional Transportation Agency

The majority of transportation agencies are made up of elected officials who occupy an advisory role and represent the towns and municipalities within the region. However, the transportation professionals are the ones who plan, make policies and implement transportation needs. Other active participants are from prominent transportation organizations such as: Dallas Area Rapid Transit, Fort Worth Transit Authority, Denton County Transit Authority, Texas Department of Transportation and the Dallas Fort Worth Airport Authority who frequently occupy these roles termed board members.

Every issue that is related to transportation in the region is filtered through this structure. According to M. Schneider, stakeholder theory conceptualizes the organization as a series of groups with different relationships to the organization. These stakeholders consist of internal organizational members including employees, agency managers, nonprofit directors and board members as well as external members such as interest groups and citizens. Hybrid members involved are engaged in inter-organizational cooperative activity with the private and public sector.

In general, stakeholders are defined in terms of a focal social actor, permitting the theory to be applied appropriately to individuals as well as organizations. Stakeholders have the potential to influence any regional transportation. Some stakeholders may not be supportive which may justify a defensive reaction. However, effective leaders will tend toward cooperative stakeholders relationships, to maximize their potential benefits.

Examining Questions for Sustainable Transportation

Thinking effectively about transportation is examined in short-term as well as long term opportunities. There are several major questions to examine:

  • What services will be provided by the different modes of transportation, across multi-jurisdictional and multi-agency service areas while giving real time information about transportation systems operation?
  • In considering the possibilities for safe, reliable and secure transportation during incidents and emergencies, how will the transportation system operators and public safety officials improve response times and decision-making efforts?
  • During major highway reconstruction projects, how will public transit services and traffic operations work together to manage increased demand and alternate flow of traffic for service deliveries?
  • How will the identification, monitoring, tracking and coordinating of moving hazardous materials through an urban area ensure safe, secure and efficient inter-modal transportation movement for citizens?
  • What consideration will be given to traffic operation and public safety management to move people, while minimizing negative effects on the community environment, especially in an atmosphere that has continued demands on coordinating transportation operations?
  • How is regional transportation council (RTC) managing its funding resources while competing for other public/private source to support ongoing transportation projects?


For the new MPA graduate seeking work experience, getting on board any related people mover transportation business (whether in government or the private sector) will be well worth the challenge. Such opportunities could lead to many new avenues for professional growth and accomplishment. This is important as public-private partnerships are on the rise. According to The Federal Transit Administration there is an indispensable role of private enterprise in meeting the transportation needs of the public.

Author: Horace A. Blake has been involved in public service for more than 25 years. He currently serves on the city’s storm water management committee and previously served for three terms as Co-Chair HOA Commissioner as well as on the City Charter Committee. Horace also served in a volunteer capacity for the State of Texas and Dallas County for eight years. Community advocacy is a passion as he serves as a county volunteer to register and educate voters as well as working with candidates seeking offices in the region.

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