As a metropolitan area grows, changes, and ages, so does transportation in the region. Transportation, in turn, affects the economy, the environment, safety, and more.
That’s where Metropolitan Planning Organizations (MPO) come in to play. Federal law requires that urbanized areas with populations of 50,000 or more have an MPO to carry out metropolitan transportation and programs.
The Mid-Region Metropolitan Planning Organization, or MRMPO, is the MPO for the Albuquerque Metropolitan Planning Area.
“There are other MPOs in the state, but we are the largest,” says Steven Montiel, Transportation Program Manager – Finance and Administration, for the Mid-Region Council of Governments, which houses the MRMPO.
“Our responsibility is to fulfill the planning and programming of transportation projects,” says Montiel.
Essentially, the MRMPO serves as a facilitator. They work with member governments to prioritize how to spend future federal dollars on transportation projects, develop policies and programs, and provide planning assistance.
“Two of our main responsibilities are the development of a long range plan and a short range program,” says Montiel. “They are guiding documents for our metro area”.
Short Range Program
Montiel oversees the short range program, also known as the Transportation Improvement Program, or TIP. The TIP is the implementing force to help meet the goals and objectives identified in the long range plan.
“We look for the best projects that we think will help meet those goals,” says Montiel. “We work with our member governments on the list of projects that receive federal aid for transportation improvements”.
The MRMPO creates a new TIP every four years. They assist in the selection transportation projects that will help in the best way possible to meet the needs of growth while not exceeding project revenues and staying fiscally responsible.
Long Range Plan
Kendra Montanari, Socioeconomic Program Manager for the Mid-Region Council of Governments, oversees the long range Metropolitan Transportation Plan, or MTP.
According to Montanari, there are several elements to the plan, including a long list of prioritized projects for the future.
“The MTP represents a collaboration of governments and agencies within the metro area on all sorts of things like safety, congestion management, intelligent transportation systems, and more, to help guide the region to grow in a responsible way that helps to mitigate future congestion issues down the line,” says Montanari.
Based on recent forecasts, the region is expected to grow by 200,000 people and 72,000 jobs in the next 20-25 years.
According to Montanari, one of the goals of the long range plan is to optimize mobility related to river-crossing congestion through an alternative scenario visioning process and elevating opportunities for job growth on the west side.
How Has COVID Affected These Plans?
According to Montanari, right after the pandemic hit, traffic counts went down about 32% metro-wide, and at the same time the region lost about 11% of its jobs.
“As an MPO, after the onset of COVID, we put together a presentation on how traffic counts, the economy and growth, and bike and pedestrian activity were affected due to the pandemic,” she says. “It was fascinating to see that year over year, bike activity went up 72% and pedestrian activity went up 115%. This tells us that when people have the opportunity to travel safely via bike and walking they are going to do it.”
On the short term transportation program side, Montiel says that projects are still going through. “We’re still helping agencies deliver their projects,” he says.
The Rio Metro Connection
“We have projects identified in both the long range plan and short range program where we are working closely with the Rio Metro Regional Transit District,” says Montiel.
In the short range, those projects emphasize rail safety, efficiency, and operations. They are also working on helping to fund one of the facilities where Rio Metro buses are housed.
In the long run, Montanari says that there is expected growth along the Rail Runner corridor, such as a mixed-use plan being proposed near the Sandia Pueblo Rail Runner station, and a significant number of jobs in the technology and industrial sectors located near the Sunport, which will spur ridership and investment in the future.
The MRMPO wants people to get out of their vehicles and try alternate modes of transit. “We try to link all modes,” says Montiel. “For example, we encourage people to get on their bike and ride to a transit station or take the Rail Runner.”
To learn more about the Mid-Region Metropolitan Planning Organization, visit them online. You can also check out their informational video, which gives a quick overview of the organization.
Ride Rio Metro Blog
Visit the Ride Rio Metro Blog page to view current and past posts.