Multi-MPO Planning: Prospects and Practices

PAS Memo — May-June 2020

By David Morley, AICP, Arthi Rao, Catherine Ross, Johamary Pena



This edition of PAS Memo is available free to all thanks to financial support from the Federal Highway Administration.

The metropolitan transportation planning process is designed to improve transportation policy making and investment decisions across a single metropolitan planning area. However, highway and rail corridors often traverse multiple neighboring MPO planning areas, and MPOs routinely make transportation policy or programming decisions that affect environmental conditions and economic opportunities beyond their jurisdictional borders. Collaborative planning between or among MPOs — multi-MPO planning — is necessary to efficiently address transportation-related planning issues that transcend metropolitan area boundaries.

This PAS Memo shares insights from a study of multi-MPO planning experiences conducted by researchers from the American Planning Association and the Georgia Institute of Technology’s Center for Quality Growth and Regional Development, with support from the Federal Highway Administration.

The article explains how a lack of collaboration between or among neighboring MPOs often leaves cross-boundary problems unaddressed and can undermine the efforts of individual MPOs and the cities and counties they serve. It shares lessons learned from three examples of multi-MPO planning that bridge the gap between regional- and megaregional-scale initiatives, focusing on practices that support effective collaboration efforts. And it offers guidance on how planners working for or with MPOs can help overcome barriers to multi-MPO planning.


Page Count
Date Published
May 1, 2020
Adobe PDF
American Planning Association

About the Authors

David Morley, AICP
David Morley, AICP, is a Research Program and QA Manager at the American Planning Association in Chicago, where he manages and contributes to sponsored research projects; manages the development of the Research KnowledgeBase; develops, organizes, and participates in educational sessions and workshops; and writes for APA publications. Mr. Morley also edits Zoning Practice.

Arthi Rao

Catherine Ross
Dr. Catherine L. Ross is a Regents Professor and Harry West Professor of City and Regional Planning and Civil and Environmental Engineering and Director of the Center for Quality Growth and Regional Development (CQGRD) at Georgia Institute of Technology. She has published extensively and is an internationally known transportation and urban planner. Dr. Ross is one of the world’s experts on Megaregions and sustainability – bringing together regions and cities on transportation, water, energy, land development and health creating places that compete in a global world. Her extensive research on regional resilience and sustainability focuses on water, energy, among others.

Johamary Pena
Jo Pena is a Research Associate at APA. She is involved in a variety of applied research projects that focus on public art, creative placemaking, and environmental health. Jo also provides research support on initiatives related to regional planning, social equity, public participation, and climate change. Prior to her work on applied research projects, Jo contributed to the Research KnowledgeBase, creating curated collections of resources that support more effective planning practices. She’s involved in organization initiatives that focus on diversity and inclusion, interdisciplinary collaboration, and multiple interest groups, including the Arts and Planning Interest Group.