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3-18 Guidebook for Freight Policy, Planning, and Programming in Small- and Medium-Sized Metropolitan Areas and programming process. The following summarizes the key challenges and offers potential solutions: Common Issue Potential Solution Lack of freight expertise. Although MPO staff Investigate training and education opportunities. goes through a similar process with every plan There are a number of training and education oppor- and program update to develop the LRP and tunities available to MPO staff to enhance under- TIP, many may be challenged by the identification standing of freight, its common issues and concerns, of transportation system needs from the freight and how it can be more effectively integrated within a perspective. This could especially be true for transportation planning process. nonroadway projects. Lack of freight data. This activity relies heavily Develop a regional freight profile. The completion of on an established freight profile, which provides a regional profile can provide an MPO with a better a variety of data sources. Freight data have understanding of the regional freight system region. historically been lacking in many regions, and The data and information collection activities con- will continue to be until staff has integrated it ducted as part of a regional freight profile develop- into the ongoing data collection and management ment can directly feed into the identification of needs program. and deficiencies. Dependence on other activities. The needs and Designate a Freight Point-of-Contact (POC). A freight deficiencies statement evolves from the regional technical lead should be designated within the MPO. freight profile. It expands on the profile to spe- This POC can act as the liaison between the MPO's cifically call out needs. These needs are then fed various transportation initiatives and between the into the project identification process. The needs MPO and other agencies and stakeholders, ensuring identification process has limited usefulness as a that freight issues are addressed within multiple MPO stand alone activity. activities. Note that the success of the POC may be limited if the MPO lacks the necessary freight sensitive corporate culture to support the POC's activities. Developing a Freight Element of a Long-Range Plan Overview The long-range transportation planning process is the backbone of an MPO's transportation program. It allows communities to provide input to the regional needs and the development of improvement projects. The planning work completed as part of this process drives the program- ming work undertaken as part of the development of the TIP. As such, for freight to be successfully mainstreamed within an MPO, it must first be represented in the LRP. Many of the subsequent activ- ities described in this Guidebook depend on and integrate with a freight element of an MPO's LRP. In addition, the efficiency of a region's freight transportation system directly impacts its eco- nomic competitiveness and vitality. The ability of industry to move raw materials and finished products to their respective markets is one of the major considerations when businesses evalu- ate expansion and relocation options. Freight transportation operations also represent one of the areas that the general public typically want minimized or restricted to specific corridors and facil- ities. Integrating freight into the LRP provides the opportunity to maximize the ability of an MPO to accommodate freight industry needs while preserving community values. Basic versus Advanced Approach Development of a comprehensive freight element for inclusion in an MPO's LRP is a significant undertaking, especially if staff has not previously conducted any freight initiatives. However, many MPOs will need to develop freight elements as an iterative process, starting out initially with more basic information. The basic approach defined here focuses on the development and insertion of freight sensitive language, which should be developed as part of the Freight Policy Directive and
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Integrating Freight into MPO Activities 3-19 an initial description of the region's freight system, including operations and infrastructure. This also should include identification and outreach to regional freight stakeholders. The advanced approach focuses on a more detailed set of activities that lead staff from the development of freight policy through the identification of needs and deficiencies and improvement project concepts. Key Activities The development of a freight LRP element incorporates many of the activities defined in the Guidebook. In addition, it feeds into and supports the other activities. As such, this is a critical element in a successful freight program. The key activities focus on all three areas of policy, plan- ning, and programming. Development of policies is a key component in the initial long-range planning activities. Planning activities represent the most significant element of the LRP, because policies are combined with the available data and applied to the transportation system to identify needs and deficiencies and subsequently develop potential solutions. Programming comes into play as the solutions are advanced and prioritized into investment decisions. The activities defined describe basic and advanced options for undertaking freight-specific long-range planning. Basic Approach Activity · Developing a Freight Element of a LRP--Basic Activity Type · Policy and Planning Level of Effort · Moderate Technical Complexity · Moderate Data/Analytical Tool Needs · Moderate. Relies on work completed as part of regional freight profile and freight needs and deficiencies; limited outreach to private partners through interviews and focus groups. Outreach/Partnership Needs · Moderate. Requires limited outreach to private partners through inter- views and focus groups; builds on earlier outreach efforts. Training/Education Needs · Moderate. Requires staff to apply basic freight knowledge to the long- range planning process; should explore resources and training available from FHWA and NHI. · http://ops.fhwa.dot.gov/freight/FPD/index.asp Related Activities · Freight Policy Directive, Regional Freight Profile, Freight Needs and Defi- ciencies, Freight Project Identification, Data and Analysis Tools, Outreach and Partnerships, Training and Education. Key activity: Integrate freight concepts into the LRP. Step 1. Develop a regional freight policy (see the Developing Freight Policy Directive sec- tion in this module). One of the first actions in the development or update of an LRP focuses on the regional goals and objectives. These provide the overall guidance and direction of the LRP. It is critical to address freight as part of this process. Step 2. Summarize and describe the regional freight system (see the Developing a Regional Freight Profile section of this module). To plan at a system level, staff must have an overall under- standing of what the transportation system encompasses and how individual modes work together. Freight cuts across all modes and has its own operating characteristics. The freight pro- file can be used to identify needs or bottlenecks and can also be used to educate the community. Step 3. Conduct outreach to regional freight stakeholders to collect information on oper- ations and needs (see the Outreach and Partnerships section in this module). In addition to the regional description, it is critical that the users of the system be given an opportunity to identify the system's strengths and weaknesses.
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3-20 Guidebook for Freight Policy, Planning, and Programming in Small- and Medium-Sized Metropolitan Areas Step 4. Prepare summary of Steps 1 through 3 as a description of a freight element for the LRP. Based on these steps, staff can develop a summary that provides a snapshot of the regional freight system and its condition. This summary would vary from region to region, depending on the results of the regional freight profile and the data and information collected as part of Step 3. This process will provide the foundation for more advanced work to be completed as the program evolves. Advanced Approach Activity · Developing a Freight Element of a LRP--Advanced Activity Type · Policy and Planning Level of Effort · High Technical Complexity · High Data/Analytical Tool Needs · High. Relies on work completed as part of the regional freight profile and freight needs and deficiencies activities; requires significant outreach to private partners through interviews, focus groups, and formation of a freight technical advisory committee. Outreach/Partnership Needs · High. Requires significant outreach to private partners through inter- views, focus groups, public meetings, and a freight technical advisory committee. Training/Education Needs · High. Requires staff to apply advanced freight knowledge to a full range of transportation planning activities, including the long-range planning process; should explore resources and training available from FHWA and NHI. · http://ops.fhwa.dot.gov/freight/FPD/index.asp Related Activities · Freight Policy Directive, Regional Freight Profile, Freight Needs and Defi- ciencies, Freight Analysis in Corridor Plans/Studies, Freight Project Iden- tification, Data and Analysis Tools, Outreach and Partnerships, Training and Education. Key activity: Develop and integrate a freight element into the LRP. Step 1. Develop a regional freight policy (see the Developing a Freight Policy Directive section in this module). One of the first actions in the development or update of an LRP focuses on the defining regional goals and objectives. These provide the overall guidance and direction of the LRP. It is critical to address freight as part of this process. Step 2. Summarize and describe the regional freight system (see the Advanced Approach subsection of the Developing a Regional Freight Profile section in this module). To plan for a system, staff must have an overall understanding of what it encompasses. Freight cuts across all modes and has its own operating characteristics. The freight profile can be used to identify needs or bottlenecks and can also be used to educate the community. Step 3. Conduct outreach to regional freight stakeholders to collect information on oper- ations and needs (see the Advanced Approach subsection of the Outreach and Partnerships sec- tion in this module). In addition to the regional description, it is critical that the users of the system be given an opportunity to identify the strengths and weaknesses. Step 4. Develop a freight needs and deficiencies statement (see the Identifying Freight Needs and Deficiencies section in this module). Once the regional profile has been developed and the community's partners (public and private) have provided input, it is necessary to develop a list of specific needs and deficiencies to stimulate the development of improvement projects.
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Integrating Freight into MPO Activities 3-21 Syracuse Metropolitan Transportation Council (SMTC)--Developing a Freight LRP Element The SMTC provides a good example of an MPO that has developed a freight- specific element in its LRP. In fact, the MPO has developed this element through the conduct of ongoing freight-specific initiatives, including truck route studies, rail corridor inventories, grade-crossing studies, and traffic studies, to develop a comprehensive freight LRP element. Figure 3.1 illustrates the region's freight transportation network as identified by SMTC. Freight planning has been an ongoing part of the MPO's planning activities since 1993 when the scope of the MPO's planning program was expanded to include rail and truck issues. An intermodal planner position also was created and filled at that time to address this area. The position focuses on a range of passenger and freight intermodal issues. This position serves as the lead for MPO freight activities with 33 percent of available time allocated to freight. Other technical staff pro- vides project-specific support. In addition, SMTC organized the Syracuse Intermodal Roundtable (19941998) composed of shippers, manufacturers, wholesalers, trucking companies and rail service providers. This roundtable provided a forum for sharing information and addressing freight issues. It also participated in the Transportation Club of Central New York (an independent association of shippers from Central New York State focused on freight issues in a larger geographic territory than the MPO (mid 1990s). A key factor that has helped the MPO address freight issues is the estab- lishment and ongoing maintenance of contacts with the private sector (trans- portation providers such as CSXT, short-line railroads, trucking companies, shippers, and manufacturers) and with the New York State DOT (NYSDOT). SMTC has conducted several freight-specific initiatives and often has one or more manageable freight initiatives underway at any given time. These initiatives have focused on truck and rail issues in the region. These include the following: a truck route study for the City of Syracuse (2000); the Central New York Rail Corridor Inventory (1996 and 2003); a highway-rail grade crossing inventory (2001); the Taft Road-Northern Boulevard Study (multimodal 2001); the Skaneateles Traffic Study (multimodal with a truck routing component, 2000); the I-481 Corridor Study (multimodal 2004); and continuing examination of access and operational issues of the CSX intermodal terminal in Syracuse. The last is an outgrowth of the 1997 Conrail/CSX Intermodal Terminal Access Study. The MPO uses the Reebie Associates commodity flow data purchased by the state DOT. The challenge with these data is that they do not fully address the issues encountered at the local level. The nature of the dataset is that it is better suited for statewide and interregional freight movements. The MPO supplements the Reebie data with local data. SMTC also has participated in statewide MPO staff training on how to use state/regional freight data provided by Reebie Associates. The NYSDOT provides ongoing technical support on a variety of freight, rail, and project programming issues. The MPO staff generally works through the regional NYSDOT office. http://web.smtcmpo.org/extranet/smtc/reports/LRTP_ update_ 2004/ch04.pdf
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3-22 Guidebook for Freight Policy, Planning, and Programming in Small- and Medium-Sized Metropolitan Areas Step 5. Identify areas where more research or data are needed. The work completed in these steps will provide a full range of available data and analyses. For MPOs that are new to freight planning, this may raise additional questions. Ongoing freight program development will rely on an evolution of (a) expertise and (b) data and process. Step 6. Develop freight-specific improvement projects (see the Identifying Freight Projects section in this module). Building on the needs and deficiencies statement, staff should develop projects to mediate the highest priority freight bottlenecks. Step 7. Prepare summary of Steps 1 through 6 as the freight element for the LRP. Based on these steps, staff can develop a summary that provides a snapshot of the regional freight system, its conditions (needs and deficiencies), and potential improvement projects. These should then feed into the project ranking and prioritization process of the overall LRP update. Source: http://web.smtcmpo.org/extranet/smtc/reports/LRTP_update_2004/ch04.pdf. Figure 3.1. Illustration of the freight network developed by SMTC.
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Integrating Freight into MPO Activities 3-23 Common Issues and Potential Solutions There are several issues or challenges that make it difficult to develop a freight LRP element. In part, it is so difficult because it requires MPO staff to conduct several new activities and to inte- grate those activities into established transportation program processes. Other challenges include data availability, freight expertise, partner participation, and political opposition. The following summarizes the key challenges and offers potential solutions: Common Issue Potential Solution Difficulty integrating with other freight Designate a Freight POC. A freight technical lead planning activities. This activity requires should be designated within the MPO. This POC can significant integration with multiple activities. act as the liaison between the MPO's various trans- This complicates the process, because it cannot portation initiatives and between the MPO and other simply reflect a stand alone freight initiative. agencies and stakeholders, ensuring that freight issues are addressed within multiple MPO activities. As part of the effort to expand SMTC's transportation pro- gram to include rail and truck issues, an intermodal planner position was created and charged with addressing passenger and freight intermodal issues, with support from other technical staff provided as necessary. As a result of this change, SMTC has under- taken several freight-specific initiatives and strives to remain active in freight planning each year. Lack of freight data. Although many of the Investigate freight data sources. There are a number activities build on established data sources, many of publicly available freight data sources and data of the required analyses rely on new or enhanced techniques that can be useful to support metropolitan data, some of which is considered proprietary by freight planning efforts. SMTC effectively used a round- private sector partners. This can result in costly table composed of key freight stakeholders to help data collection activities. define regional freight issues as well as enhance dissemi- nation of information to the private sector. In addition, SMTC uses commodity flow data provided by the state, and staff took advantage of a statewide MPO training initiative designed to teach staff how to use the dataset. Available data sources are provided in Module 5. Difficulty including freight within an estab- Develop champions and advocates for freight and lished planning process. An established LRP freight planning. The ability to create new or modified process already exists within MPOs. Breaking processes and gain the support of the transportation into this process to create a new discipline can community are in part based on the emergence of a be difficult to accomplish institutionally. freight champion. Articulating the positive benefits of freight can help create advocacy for freight planning and build support for mainstreaming freight within an existing planning process. Lack of freight expertise. Many of the activities Investigate training and education opportunities. defined represent a new area of planning for There are a number of training and education oppor- MPO staff. The ability of staff to take advantage tunities available to MPO staff to enhance under- of training opportunities and personal initiative standing of freight, its common issues and concerns, to learn a new discipline are necessary for the and how it can be more effectively integrated within a freight program to be successful. transportation planning process. In addition to FHWA's resources, SMTC participated in a statewide MPO training program on the use of the regional and state level TRANSEARCH data that had been pur- chased and made available by NYS DOT. The regional DOT office also provides ongoing technical support. In addition, SMTC draws upon the experiences of other MPOs, such as the Buffalo MPO, which man- ages an international freight gateway.