Oberstar Tackles Metro-Area Transportation Planning

The debate over funding distributions between highways and transit tends to attract a lot of attention, but advocates are increasingly seeking other methods to achieve transportation reform — as my colleague Ben Fried showed in his recent interview with John Norquist, president of the Congress for the New Urbanism.

Norquist has described the highways-transit dichotomy as a "limited" way to frame the transportation debate, calling for more focus on the planning of street networks by state DOTs and local Metropolitan Planning Organizations (MPOs).

It’s a topic that’s clearly on Rep. Jim Oberstar’s (D-MN) mind as well. The House transportation committee chairman’s forthcoming bill takes a closer look at MPOs, requiring the federal DOT to collect information on their performance and the establishment of "Blueprint" planning (already in use to some extent in California) for metro-area transportation projects.

Breaking down the bureaucracy, here’s what "Blueprint" planning would mean under Oberstar’s proposal. MPOs would be required to address the following priorities when devising new projects:

  • "land use patterns that support improved mobility and reduced dependency on single-occupant vehicle trips"
  • "an adequate supply of housing for all income levels"
  • "limited impacts on valuable farmland, natural resources and air quality"
  • "a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions"
  • "an increase in water and energy conservation and efficiency"
  • "an increase in livable communities"

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