Winter Council Meeting: Budgeting Transportation

Transportation was at the center of discussion at MAPC’s February 25th Council Meeting – as it has been throughout Greater Boston this winter.

Courtesy Marilyn Humphries

Karl Quackenbush, Executive Director of the Central Transportation Planning Staff at the Boston Region Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO), addressed the Council, outlining the MPO’s process of updating the Long Range Transportation Plan (LRTP) for the region. The LRTP defines the MPO’s transportation vision, which will guide the agency’s allocation of federal and state transportation dollars for the next 25 years.

Courtesy Marilyn Humphries
Courtesy Marilyn Humphries

Attendees were asked to discuss their opinions on the allocation of discretionary funds across six program categories under consideration by the MPO: Intersection Improvements; Complete Streets; Bicycle & Pedestrian Networks; Major Infrastructure; Community Transportation; and Flex to Transit.

Credit Marilyn Humphries


Participants were given 25 colored plastic chips, each one representing $10 million, so that each eight-person table could allot a total of $2 billion, the estimated amount available to the MPO over the next 25 years. Each person distributed their chips to the six different categories as they saw fit, taking into account the example projects, cost ranges, and the past distribution of these funds by the MPO. After a facilitated discussion, tables made changes to their original allocation, and worked to reach consensus on their collective vision of future MPO spending.

Courtesy Marilyn Humphries


The fifteen tables that engaged in the exercise (120 participants total) developed funding scenarios substantially different from historical patterns of MPO investments.

  • All the tables preferred to spend substantially less on the Major Infrastructure category than has the MPO in the past. Tables allocated an average of only 14% of their funding to the Major Infrastructure category, as compared to 54% of past MPO investments.
  • All the tables proposed flexing a substantial portion of the MPO’s discretionary funding to transit. On average, tables allocated 25% of their resources to the Flex to Transit category, versus 3% of past MPO investments. Table scenarios ranged from 13% to 50% of total funding for this program.
  • All tables proposed increasing the share of resources dedicated to Community Transportation, Bicycle and Pedestrian networks, and Intersection Improvements. These program areas have each received 2-5% of MPO discretionary spending over recent years, and every table recommended increasing these programs by anywhere from half to ten times current levels.
Table Exercise Results
Table Exercise Results

Find out more

Go to our website to see the data-driven presentation and keypad survey; and check out all the photos from the event here.