Skip to content
DOT tab

Transportation and Climate Change Clearinghouse

Case Studies

MPO Activities

California MPOs (General)

The MPOs in California have been particularly advanced in incorporating climate change into their long-range planning processes, in part because of the state's regulatory framework to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.

Components of California state policy that particularly affect MPOs include:

  1. New regional transportation plan guidelines from the California Transportation Commission (CTC) established state legislation that requires California to reduce GHG emissions.

    AB 32 drives much of the activity around climate change mitigation in California. The law mandates that California reduce GHG emissions to 1990 levels by 2020. It further directs the California Air Resources Board (CARB) to monitor and regulate GHG emissions in coordination with relevant state agencies. Over the next few years, CARB will develop a scoping plan and regulations to achieve the required reductions. The transportation sector, as a large contributor to GHG emissions, is expected to produce significant reductions. Proposed legislation (SB 375) would require CARB to allocate reductions to large urban areas. If enacted, this legislation would directly affect the long-range planning functions of MPOs in the state.

  2. Legal action by the California Attorney General to require MPOs to analyze the GHG impacts of their long-range transportation plans under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA).

    Recent legal and legislative action suggests that transportation agencies will also have to consider GHG emissions under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). In 2007, the state Attorney General began warning MPOs that they could be required to analyze the GHG impacts of their LRTPs under CEQA. Even though no official guidance exists on how such analyses should be conducted, or how significance of impacts should be determined, some MPOs have begun exploring GHG impacts in their CEQA documents. SB 97, signed into law in August 2007, requires the Governor's Office of Planning and Research to issue guidelines for the analysis and mitigation of GHG emissions under CEQA.

  3. Statewide initiatives to promote integrated transportation-land use planning at the regional level.

    Many MPOs in California have developed or are developing a Regional Blueprint Plan for their area. Regional Blueprint Plans link transportation, land use, housing, environment, economic development, and equity issues. Regional Blueprint planning typically consists of regional growth scenario planning, with the final product being an integrated transportation and land use plan. MPOs receive support from the state of California to conduct Blueprint Planning. MPOs with Blueprint Plans often call attention to the GHG emission reduction benefits of the Plans.

Top of page

Metropolitan Transportation Commission (San Francisco Bay Area)

The Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC), the MPO for the San Francisco Bay Area region, has made climate change a focal point for the next version of its long-range transportation plan (Transportation 2035; Draft Expected 2008). The plan will incorporate climate change related goals, analyses, and performance measures. Preliminary documents and presentations from MTC show a strong and comprehensive initiative to incorporate climate change in the next RTP. MTC recognizes that existing legislation (AB 32), and possibly new legislation (SB 375), will soon establish new requirements for RTPs. Public opinion polls by MTC also show high interest in addressing global warming in the RTP.

The plan will also use a climate change performance measure to compare strategy alternatives. The preliminary target calls for the RTP to reduce CO2 emissions 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2035. This target aligns with statewide goals. MTC and its partner, the Association of Bay Area Governments (ABAG), are testing scenarios including increasing land use densities, aggressive road pricing, and measures to improve system efficiency to see which options are most likely to meet the target. When the planning process reaches the stage of project analysis, a CO2 emissions criterion will also be applied to some project types. More information (Word 88kb)

In addition, the Joint Policy Committee will produce a Climate Protection Action Plan as part of the RTP process. The Joint Policy Committee consists of MTC, ABAG, the Bay Area Air Quality Management District (BAAQMD), and the Bay Conservation and Development Commission (BCDC).

Top of page

Sacramento Area Council of Governments

The Sacramento Area Council of Governments (SACOG) incorporates climate change mitigation in the trends and challenges and policies of its long-range transportation plan. SACOG's Metropolitan Transportation Plan (MTP) includes a section on Fuel Consumption and Climate Change. It documents trends in transportation fuel consumption, establishes the link between fossil fuel consumption and climate change, and explains broad strategies for the reduction of GHG emissions from transportation. Metropolitan Transportation Plan for 2035 (Draft November 2007)

The Environmental Impact Report for SACOG's Metropolitan Transportation Plan includes a chapter on Energy and Global Climate Change. The EIR determines the global warming significance of the MTP. It also sets forth thirteen different mitigation measures for the plan's impacts on climate change. One measure is the development of a Regional Climate Change Action Plan that will:

  • "Discuss climate change's effects on the Sacramento region, and especially on MTP facilities;"
  • "Calculate a baseline inventory of total 2005 GHG emissions produced directly or indirectly by MTP activities;"
  • "Calculate total MTP GHG emissions per capita in 2005 based on the 2005 baseline inventory and the 2005 regional population;"
  • "Compare the global climate change impacts of future MTP scenarios and current conditions;"
  • "Create enforceable, viable GHG emissions reduction strategies to reduce total MTP GHG emissions per capita."

MTP for 2035 Environmental Impact Report (Draft November 2007)

Top of page

San Diego Association of Governments

The San Diego Association of Governments (SANDAG) considers climate change in the trends and challenges, goals, and strategies of its long-range transportation plan. It also considers GHG emissions in the environmental review of its long range transportation plan. 2030 Regional Transportation Plan (Adopted November 2007)

One of four broad action areas in the plan is land use. The plan discusses climate change and transportation energy conservation primarily within this action area. It highlights current efforts by SANDAG that reduce GHG emissions by providing alternative mode options and promoting alternative fuels. Proposed actions in this area include:

  • "Update the region's long term energy plan, Regional Energy Strategy 2030, to incorporate energy and climate impacts of land use and transportation measures."
  • "Develop a regional climate change action plan in coordination with state and local jurisdiction efforts."

In compliance with CEQA, SANDAG is preparing an Environmental Impact Report for its LRTP. In the document SANDAG analyzes the plan's climate change impacts, identifies them as "significant and unavoidable," and establishes mitigation measures to address them. The EIR quantifies the GHG emissions resulting from the 2030 RTP. 2030 Regional Transportation Plan Environmental Impact Report (PDF 422kb) (Draft August 2007)

SANDAG has also been an active participant in planning responses to incorporate AB 32's GHG emission reduction targets. SANDAG staff has followed closely the drafting of California's Scoping Plan—an outline of California's primary climate change mitigation strategies—and is a regular participant in stakeholder workshops. Likewise, SANDAG has contributed to advisory groups for California's Climate Action Team's Land Use Subgroup and the California Transportation Commission's Regional Transportation Plan Guidelines Working Groups on climate change, smart growth/land use, and transportation modeling and analysis. White Paper on Climate Change Planning Issues (PDF 8.78mb) . Distributed at SANDAG Board of Directors Meeting, January 25, 2008.

Top of page

Southern California Association of Governments

The Southern California Association of Government's (SCAG) 2008 Regional Transportation Plan (RTP) addresses climate change in its trends and challenges and performance measures. The plan's environmental document proposes GHG mitigation measures and provides examples of adaptation measures. SCAG's RTP includes a background section on the science of climate change and California's policies on climate change. The document also includes GHG emissions as a secondary performance measure for the achievement of environmental goals. (Emissions of criteria pollutants are the primary measure.) 2008 Regional Transportation Plan (Draft December 2007)

The RTP Program Environmental Impact Report (PEIR) inventories the region's current GHG emission levels, outlines mitigation techniques, and considers the impact of various planning scenarios on GHG emissions reduction goals. To reduce emissions that cause global warming, the PEIR proposes various mitigation strategies, from limiting the use of GHG emitting construction materials to increasing investment in non-motorized transportation. The PEIR also provides examples of how transportation planners may anticipate adaptation strategies for dealing with global warming, such as delineating floodplains and alluvial fan boundaries to prepare for hydrologic changes. 2008 RTP Program Environmental Impact Report (Draft January 2008)

SCAG's Regional Comprehensive Plan also addresses the link between climate change and transportation. The Regional Comprehensive Plan assesses the potential impact of transportation policies and strategies on climate change. 2008 Regional Comprehensive Plan (Draft November 2007)

Top of page

Baltimore Metropolitan Council

The Baltimore Metropolitan Council (BMC) incorporates climate change indirectly in its long-range transportation plan . BMC specifically mentions climate change within the "Environmental Stewardship" section of the transportation plan. In this discussion, they mention that "an issue garnering significant attention is climate change related to greenhouse gases." BMC recognizes that the plan does not directly address climate change and there are no established Federal standards for GHG, but that the plan's overall goals of "reducing vehicle emissions should have a positive effect on the Baltimore region's inventory of greenhouse gases."

The plan also contains a goal aimed at reducing energy consumption. Goal 4, "Preserving the Environment," is supported by the policy: "Promote a sustainable environment by establishing policies that abate emissions from mobile sources, reduce energy consumption, reduce single occupant vehicles and the use of gasoline, and conserve and protect natural and cultural resources." The BRTB will support this policy with travel demand management programs and emission reduction projects, and they intend to fund strategies in three categories: technological, behavioral, and capital programs.

Top of page

Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning

The Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning (CMAP) includes climate change mitigation in the goals of its long-range transportation plan. CMAP states in its updated RTP, "We are concerned about transportation's role in the long-term sustainability of the natural environment as it relates to ecological concerns ranging from global climate change to natural beauty." Accordingly, one of the LRTP's goals is Employ Transportation to Sustain the Region's Vision and Values. 2030 Regional Transportation Plan (Updated June 2007)

The agency is also drafting a Regional Comprehensive Plan (adoption, fall 2010) that will take additional steps to reduce GHG emissions. CMAP is developing a new Regional Comprehensive Plan (RCP) that will integrate planning for transportation, land use, the natural environment, economic development, housing, and social systems. As part of the development of the RCP, CMAP hosted a Climate Change Summit in December 2007. The agency also simultaneously issued a Regional Snapshot on Sustainability that addresses climate change as one of its key issues.

Top of page

Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission (Philadelphia Area)

Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission (DVRPC) is actively working to incorporate climate change into their planning process, but has not done so yet. DVRPC's last long-range plan was released in 2005 and did not mention climate change or GHG reductions. The next long-range plan will likely be released in July 2009 and will incorporate climate change in a number of ways. In particular, DVRPC hopes to:

  • Report the GHG impacts of different plan alternatives
  • Report the GHG impacts of individual TIP projects

DVRPC recognizes that there are analytical challenges to this quantification, and their modelers are working to address them. DVRPC would also like to examine whether climate change impacts are properly included in project design, recognizing that historical data on climate (such as flooding probability) may be inappropriate for highway design.

DVRPC's latest Comprehensive Work Plan (for FY 2009) includes the following items related to climate change:

  • Produce a Regional Greenhouse Gas Emissions Inventory and Forecast
  • Evaluate Greenhouse Gas Reduction Options
  • Initiate Stakeholder Engagement for Action Planning
  • Develop Regional Climate Change Action Plan
  • Integrate Climate Change and Energy Concerns Throughout DVRPC Activities
  • Support for Greenhouse Gas Emissions Inventories and Forecasts for Government Operations

DVRPC is also working with EPA on GHG inventory protocol issues. As EPA develops protocols for a region-level GHG inventory, DVRPC is hoping to be a test case for the protocol.

Top of page

Denver Regional Council of Governments

The Denver Regional Council of Governments (DRCOG) participated in the Colorado Climate Project. Although DRCOG's long-range transportation plan does not explicitly incorporate climate change, it does consider the need to reduce energy consumption from transportation.

Colorado Climate Project

DRCOG's Executive Director was a member of the Transportation and Land Use Technical Working Group for the Colorado Climate Project, a statewide climate action plan process. In this role, DRCOG contributed to the development of transportation and land use policy recommendations for emissions reductions. These policy options include coordinated transportation and land use planning, improved transit infrastructure and service, parking management, idle reduction, pay-as-you-drive insurance, and commuter benefits programs. These strategies are intended to contribute to the overall goal of reducing Colorado's emissions 20 percent by 2020 and 80 percent by 2050, compared to 2005 levels.

2035 Metro Vision Regional Transportation Plan

DRCOG's regional transportation plan (RTP), adopted in December 2007, does not directly discuss climate change, but it does devote a section of the plan to Energy Consumption within Chapter 6 - Transportation Benefits and Impacts. The plan recognizes that "Direct energy impacts of the transportation system derive from the energy consumed by vehicles using the system--automobiles, trucks, buses and trains. Indirect impacts include energy used by equipment constructing and maintaining the system." 2035 Metro Vision Regional Transportation Plan (Adopted December 2007)

Top of page

Grand Valley Metropolitan Council (Grand Rapids, MI)

Grand Valley Metropolitan Council (GVMC) mentions climate change in the discussion of energy conservation and alternative fuels in its long-range transportation plan. GVMC also dedicates a 5-page section to Alternative Fuels, citing that they are "working hard to stay abreast to energy changes and advancements as they relate to transportation and transportation infrastructure. As alternative fuel technology evolves, our staff will continue to evaluate the applicability to plans and development projects. It is our goal to incorporate those technologies into our planning process that reduce our dependence on foreign oil as well as reduce the emission of gases that contribute to global warming, particulate matter, and chemicals that combine to form ground level ozone." They provide an overview of emerging technologies in ethanol, biodiesel, and hydrogen fuels, the anticipated emission benefits of each, applicability to the State of Michigan, and locations of retail fueling sites. However, the plan does not include further specific actions or strategies for the DOT in relation to alternative fuels. 2035 Long Range Transportation Plan for the Grand Rapids Metropolitan Area (Adopted April 2007)

Top of page

Houston-Galveston Area Council

The Houston-Galveston Area Council (H-GAC) acknowledges the need for climate change adaptation and mitigation in the trends and challenges of its long-range plan. The LRTP includes a section on Transportation and Climate Change. This section describes the phenomenon of climate change and its potential impact on the transportation system of the Houston-Galveston region. It references joint research efforts with the U.S. Department of Transportation and other agencies to identify potential impacts of climate change on the system and ultimately to identify adaptation strategies. The section also recognizes the impact that transportation GHG emissions have on climate change, along with the possibility of mitigation measures. H-GAC will take additional steps to integrate climate change into future versions of its LRTP. 2035 Regional Transportation Plan (Updated October 2007)

Top of page

Metro (Portland, OR area)

Metro, the Portland, Oregon area MPO, includes climate change in the trends and challenges, goals, strategies, and performance measures of its long-range transportation plan. Metro commits itself to monitoring GHG emissions as part of the plan. Metro's LRTP highlights reduced GHG emissions as a specific benefit of the Regional Framework Plan, the 2040 Growth Concept. Looking toward the future, the plan recognizes that "new state and/or federal regulations to reduce climate change are likely in the RTP's planning horizon and will be addressed in future updates to the plan." A major challenge and opportunity area in the plan is Global Climate Change, Air Quality, and Environmental Stewardship. This section explicitly recognizes the impact that transportation GHG emissions have on climate change, and the threat that climate change poses to the transportation system. It further pledges that "The RTP will begin voluntarily monitoring greenhouse gas emissions as part of the planning process."

Three potential actions under this goal are:

  • "Monitor air quality, greenhouse gas emissions and air toxics within the regional airshed."
  • "Adopt targets to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to 10 percent below 1990 levels by 2020 and 75 percent below 1990 levels by 2050."
  • "Adopt offsetting land use actions and investments in transit and other modes that contribute to meeting greenhouse gas emissions targets."

The plan also proposes an initial set of performance measures to be used to monitor compliance with state and federal standards, evaluate system performance, prioritize investments, and monitor plan implementation. 2035 Regional Transportation Plan (adopted January 2008)

Top of page

Puget Sound Regional Council (Seattle area)

The Puget Sound Regional Council (PSRC) is beginning the process of updating its long-range transportation plan. The next version will be adopted in 2010. PSRC is committed to integrating both mitigation of and adaptation to climate change into the plan.

Vision 2040 (adoption in spring 2008) is a regional growth, transportation, and economic strategy developed by PSRC. Although Vision 2040 is not the official LRTP for the region, it develops a strong transportation policy framework that will be carried forward into the LRTP. References to climate change appear throughout Vision 2040 in goals, trends and challenges, strategies, and performance measures.

Various other policies address aspects of climate change indirectly linked to transportation. Vision 2040 also establishes annual average GHG emissions as a performance measure to monitor the plan. It further commits the agency to: development of a regional air quality guide and a climate change action plan working with other agencies and partners to develop greenhouse gas emission reduction estimates.

The agency is also developing new technical tools and procedures to analyze GHG impacts. PSRC plans to perform an analysis of CO2 emissions both for the comparison of alternatives in the LRTP and for the EIS. To this end, the agency has formed a Climate Change Technical Working Group to develop these analyses. Specifically, PSRC is working with both EPA and FHWA to update is transportation models to output GHG emissions.

Top of page

Santa Fe Metropolitan Planning Organization

The City of Santa Fe recently published its draft Sustainable Santa Fe Plan . The Plan considers climate change and energy efficiency, among other aspects of sustainability. Transportation is one of several sectors addressed in the Plan. The document discusses the impact of transportation on climate change, as well as several key determinants of transportation GHG emissions.

Top of page