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

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Because an MPO has a federal mandate to conduct transportation planning, its funding sources are integrated with that mandate. The estimated funding for the MPO is approximately $6 billion over the next 25 years.

Staff: Many of the changes, such as including language about physical activity in a plan, can be done with minimal staff. The leadership of the Nashville Area MPO’s director was instrumental in making the changes the organization made; the Director of Healthy Communities managed the Bicycle and Pedestrian Study, which supported the changes in MPO policies. The preparation and update to the Regional Transportation Plan took approximately two years – big changes can take a long time to develop and implement. All staff members were involved in the Regional Transportation Planning process. The Director of Healthy Communities scored the bike/pedestrian projects; it took approximately 4 months of full-time work to score 500 projects. Approximately six months before the adoption of the RTP, all staff devoted nearly 100% of their time to working on the plan. One hundred percent of the Director of Healthy Communities’ time is devoted to bicycle, pedestrian and health policy; stakeholder coordination; and funding, programs, education and encouragement for active transportation.

Training: MPO staff were trained to incorporate physical activity considerations into their transportation planning work on-the-job and through participating in conferences, reading recent research, and participating in low-cost professional development (e.g., webinars). Much of this “training” was focused on keeping abreast of the latest work in the area of active transportation. Staff trained the Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee members.

Materials: Many of the “materials” the MPO created to support implementation - such as holding public meetings and conversations and creating and disseminating online surveys - were done with little cost other than staff time.  The entire bicycle and pedestrian study cost $250,000* – this provided much of the quantitative data and support for the MPO’s new work supporting active transportation. **MPOs receive money for staff and studies, but an MPO decides how it spends that money – and many have chosen to not spend it on activities that incorporate health.  

Funding: The MPO devoted $2.5 million to the Active Transportation Program (15% of U-STP) in this round of funding. The source of the funding was a federal transportation program called the Urban Surface Transportation Program.