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Number of Regional Planning Agencies serving rural areas: 3 Total annual funding: around $300,000 – $500,000 (80% federal funds, 20% state match) Date established rural transportation planning program: 1970s The Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT) provides liaisons and state matching funds to all of the state’s 13 regional planning agencies (RPAs) to implement transportation planning.  Three of the RPAs serve geographic areas that do not contain an urbanized area with a population of 50,000.  However, MassDOT refers to all of the RPAs as MPOs for transportation purposes.  The RPAs all complete the same federally required tasks, including developing a unified planning work program, public participation and Title VI and environmental justice plans, long-range planning, and a fiscally constrained transportation improvement program.  In addition, the regions plan for regional greenhouse gas emissions reductions in compliance with a state initiative known as GreenDOT.[1]

Data collection and analysis is an important function provided by the RPAs.  This includes conducting traffic counts on major roads within the region and providing the information to MassDOT.  In addition, the RPAs collect information on other modes of transportation, including ferry and airport trips, bicycle or pedestrian counts, and information on the presence of alternative transportation facilities and condition as appropriate to the region.[2]

Performance measurement is an increasing area of focus for the region.  The RPAs have begun to score projects in their regional TIPs according to greenhouse gas emissions reductions and support for mode shifts away from automobile use.  However, the RPAs have been able to set up their own criteria to review and score projects in both the TIPs and long-range plans.  The Martha’s Vineyard Commission (MVC) recently revised its criteria to include specific performance targets.[3]  The Franklin Regional Council of Governments is also partnering with neighboring regional agencies, including the Pioneer Valley Planning Commission (an adjacent MPO), to create an online data portal to communicate progress a greater regional vision.[4]  Pavement management systems assist localities in tracking pavement condition, including recently improved roads, which complements an emphasis on maintaining existing infrastructure.[5]  Where applicable, the RPAs also engage in air quality planning.[6]

In addition to completing federally mandated planning deliverables, the RPAs have the flexibility to also conduct planning work that relates to priority issues within their individual regions.  For MVC, reviewing significant development proposals known as Developments of Regional Impact (DRI) is one of the region’s priorities because of its significance for maintaining the character of the island.  Although regional planning and development organizations in other states also conduct DRI reviews, for Martha’s Vineyard, part of this work is conducted through the transportation planning work program, emphasizing the connection between land use and transportation.  MVC assists with developing transportation impact analyses and reviews proposed developments for consistency with island policies and plans including regional transportation plans.  This work includes reviewing development site plans for transportation aspects and potential mitigation.  MVC encourages consideration of alternative modes at the site level in addition to regional planning activities; as an example, a commercial building of more than 3,000 square feet is subject to DRI review.  Connections from the building to the street for transit use, bicycle parking, and other improvements are regularly suggested.  This is consistent with the organization’s mission, since it was created by the Massachusetts legislature in 1974 to create a system of regional planning to protect the natural, historical, ecological, scientific, and cultural qualities of Martha’s Vineyard.[7]

For the Nantucket Planning and Economic Development Commission, a regional focus is on managing automobile use is a priority, and planning activities emphasize various modes of transportation and providing parking options, assessing downtown parking and major corridors for accessibility, and improving conditions for bicycle and pedestrian mobility and safety.[8]  For the Franklin Regional COG, bicycle and pedestrian access is also a priority, as is regional rail and transit service, and scenic byway corridor planning.[9]  All of these localized RPA efforts tie into priorities of other locally developed and adopted plans, including land use, economic development, and local transportation plans and studies.

For more information on regional transportation planning in Massachusetts, visit

[1] Nantucket Planning and Economic Development Commission (2015). Unified Planning Work Program for Transportation Planning Activities, FFY 2016,

[2] NPEDC (2015); Franklin Regional COG (2016). Draft Franklin Region Unified Planning Work Program for Transportation Planning Activities; Martha’s Vineyard Commission (2014).  Unified Planning Work Program for Transportation Planning Activities in County of Dukes County, Massachusetts, FFY 2015

[3] Personal communication with Priscilla Leclerc, July 2016




[7] Personal communication with Priscilla Leclerc, July 2016




RTPO Models


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