Stronger Federal Direction Needed To Promote Better Use of Present Urban Transportation Systems

CED-79-126: Published: Oct 4, 1979. Publicly Released: Oct 4, 1979.

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To encourage better use of existing highway and public transit systems, the Federal Highway Administration (FHwA) and the Urban Mass Transportation Administration (UMTA) in 1975 issued joint planning regulations requiring urban areas to develop transportation systems management plans. In developing these plans, urban areas are to consider a wide range of projects, such as preferential treatment for transit and other high-occupancy vehicles, progressive timing of traffic signals, and establishment of pricing mechanisms to reduce vehicle use in congested areas.

The joint planning regulations have not resulted in integrated urban transportation system plans nor in the widespread adoption of projects different from those implemented prior to the regulations. FHwA and UMTA administer the regulations separately, do not always agree on the regulations' scope, and do not enforce the requirements consistently. Urban areas are required to submit one plan for highways and transit, but separate reviews by FHwA and UMTA do not facilitate integration of urban transportation plans. Since there is no one interpretation of what transportation systems management is, federal, state, and local transportation officials are uncertain as to what kinds of projects can or should be considered in the plans. Neither FHwA nor UMTA has required measurable objectives to be established, and most urban areas have not established them.

Recommendation for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed

    Comments: Please call 202/512-6100 for additional information.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Transportation should: (1) require FHwA and UMTA to reach agreement on the regulations' scope and requirements; (2) integrate the Department of Transportation's administration of the planning and review functions by providing state and local officials with consistent direction and reviewing the planning processes in urban areas from a total transportation system perspective; and (3) require FHwA and UMTA to work with state and local officials in developing measurable urban transportation objectives aimed at improving existing urban transportation resources. To promote coordination of the planning process, the Secretary of Transportation should also require that FHwA and UMTA not approve an urban area's planning process until it has shown that the plan is overall unified and includes input from the groups or agencies that can contribute to the planning process. Finally, the Secretary of Transportation should request funds to test whether federal financial incentives would help promote more widespread adoption of innovative projects and then determine the need for additional legislative authority.

    Agency Affected:


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