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Nashville Area Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO): Active Transportation Funding Policy

Underlying Theory and Evidence

Strategies Used1

  • The MPO employs the strategy of active transportation by funding infrastructure (sidewalks, bike lanes, greenways, etc.) to facilitate active transportation (biking and walking, for example), as well as through funding education and awareness activities, such as Safe Routes to Shopping and bicycle safety/education projects
  • The MPO's Active Transportation Funding Policy provides new ways to get to places actively (e.g., biking or walking) and new venues for physical activity (e.g, greenways and bike lanes), both examples of increasing access to and the number of places for physical activity.
  • The strategy of urban design/policy and zoning to facilitate physical activity is demonstrated by the MPO's efforts to re-design the physical environment to make physical activity more appealing and more accessible through, for example, designing roadways with all users in mind (also called complete streets), which is at the core of the MPO's efforts.

Underlying Theory and Evidence

Formative evaluation: The Nashville MPO conducted a considerable amount of formative work to develop this policy. In order to gauge the extent to which policies like this (that is, incorporating health) existed within other planning organizations around the country, the Nashville Area MPO's Executive Director reviewed transportation plans and their components. Stakeholders, including citizens of the Nashville metro area, were highly engaged in this process. The MPO gathered public input through multiple surveys and both formal and informal studies, the results of which directly informed policy development. Information was collected through multiple methods and this added to the breath of formative work. The MPO analyzes various data sources related to underserved populations, which allows them to assess the areas of highest need based on Degrees of Disadvantage (census tracts with higher than average percentages of at least three subpopulations, including zero car households, households in poverty, female heads of household, etc.). Additionally, the policy is transdisciplinary based on the involvement of stakeholders from multiple sectors, including health, transportation, growth and development, and environmental protection. This transdisciplinary approach is imperative for transportation and land use policies.

Process evaluation: The most recent request for proposals for the 2035 RTP resulted in an increase of the number of proposals that included bike and pedestrian elements. For the 2035 RTP, there were approximately 500 projects submitted; about 420 of those were roadway projects (and therefore primarily covered with U-STP funds), and about 75% of those included a bike/pedestrian element (i.e., a bike lane or a sidewalk). In the adopted 2035 RTP, close to 70% of the roadway projects included a bike and/or pedestrian element. By MPO estimates, just 2% of projects included in the last RTP (put out in 2005) had a bike/pedestrian element. For the first round of the Active Transportation Program, ten projects were submitted (valued at $3.8 million) and eight were funded (at $2.5 million). The MPO tracks the number and content of the applications as part of process evaluation.

Outcome evaluation: Because projects have only recently been funded through this policy, outcomes of changes in the built environment cannot yet be determined. However, the logic of the MPO's approach suggests that environmental changes will be favorable and would lead to behavioral changes related to physical activity.

1  A full description of the intervention strategies used can be found here  with references to the sources of evidence to support the strategies