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60 Road Pricing: Public Perceptions and Program Development 3.2 GAO Report on MPOs A report by the Government Accountability Office (GAO, September 2009) surveyed all 381 MPOs (with an 86% response rate) and conducted case studies of eight metropolitan areas to deter- mine the status of planning and how the U.S. DOT provides oversight for MPOs. Important find- ings include the following: · A large proportion of MPO respondents to surveys believe their agencies lack resources and/or expertise to carry out transportation planning. Given that road pricing is a relatively new con- cept, it is likely many MPO planners may feel challenged analyzing and incorporating pricing into regional plans. · While MPOs representing more than 200,000 in population are subject to federal certification reviews, the reviews are viewed as "pro forma in nature." MPO respondents place a greater value on informal assistance provided by both federal and state governments. · Making the planning process more performance based might enable the FTA and FHWA to improve assessment of MPO planning progress and outcomes. And, more federal investment in modeling and data gathering should give greater reliability and consistency to MPO travel demand forecasting. 3.3 MPO Review on Congestion Policies by Anthony Downs Anthony Downs at the Center on Urban and Metropolitan Policy (Downs, 2004) reviewed the history of MPO development and action to assess whether regional planning can be improved for combating congestion and considers various organizational options for changing MPO authority and effectiveness. Important findings include the following: · Some regional agencies already have authority to implement pricing broadly and are important to implementation prospects. Downs cites the Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC) in the San Francisco Bay Area, where a "sister" organization sets tolls for the state-owned bridges in the area. He also indicates some air quality agencies, such as the California Air Resources Board, may be agencies capable of implementing congestion pricing. · An important impetus for gaining public support for pricing is the time when congestion rises to the top of the agenda in a metropolitan area whether due to a booming economy and associ- ated growth or unusual strictures in road development or other causes. 3.4 MPO Review for TEA-21 Reauthorization by Bruce Katz et al. As with Anthony Downs, Katz et al. (2003) at the Center on Urban and Metropolitan Policy reviewed MPO authority and roles. Important findings include the following: · States are vital to any transportation planning. Katz indicates states receive and manage large shares of federal and state transportation money, and their "political leverage" is far greater than that of the MPOs. · Many MPOs, particularly in smaller areas, lack adequate staff and financial resources, with a recent study finding 58% of small MPOs (those representing populations of less than 200,000) have limited or no formal transportation models or forecasting tools. Such entities will struggle to analyze pricing adequately. · Specific and publicly available performance measures and feedback systems around all candi- date strategies in plans, including road pricing, will boost implementation prospects.