Chapter 1 - Introduction to the Needs Assessment


The Long-Range Transportation Plan and Needs Assessment

The Boston Region Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) develops a new Long-Range Transportation Plan (LRTP) every four years, as mandated by federal requirements and reaffirmed in the most recent federal transportation reauthorization legislation, Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act. The LRTP establishes a vision for the Boston region’s future transportation system, establishes goals and objectives to achieve the vision, and identifies transportation projects and programs that support the vision and goals.

The Needs Assessment was prepared during the development of the MPO’s LRTP, Destination 2040. It documents the existing transportation, population, and employment conditions, and contains an analysis and projection of future conditions that indicate prospective transportation demand. It is a critical tool for planning the Boston region’s future. This Needs Assessment report provides information about various components of the transportation system, the existing condition, how the system is used, and the projected future use of the system.

Performance-Based Planning and Programming

As required by the FAST Act, the MPO is integrating performance-based planning and programming (PBPP) into its practices to develop Destination 2040 to achieve and document progress toward the MPO’s goals. PBPP refers to the transportation agencies’ application of performance management in their planning and programming processes to achieve desired outcomes for the multimodal transportation system.

For MPOs, PBPP is a comprehensive planning practice that reflects the MPO’s continuing, cooperative, and comprehensive (3C) metropolitan transportation planning process. It involves undertaking a range of activities and producing a variety of products in coordination and consultation with all applicable agencies, organizations, and stakeholders—including the public. The PBPP is fully integrated into the MPO’s 3C process, which includes developing:

The MPO is developing metrics used to monitor and report on transportation characteristics to assess the progress toward the MPO’s goals. Through its PBPP practice, the MPO is working to base its transportation investment decisions, for both long-term planning and short-term programming, on the ability to meet the MPO’s established goals.

The Boston Region MPO’s Needs Assessment Purpose and Process

Needs Assessment Purpose and Use

This Needs Assessment report will guide the MPO’s decision making on how to address the Boston region’s transportation needs through the LRTP, and will guide future decision making on which projects to fund in the TIP, and what studies to conduct through the UPWP. Authorities estimate that the cost of meeting all identified needs for the Boston region will exceed anticipated financial resources between now and 2040. Therefore, it is important to prioritize needs to guide investment decisions for the Boston region.

The information included in the Needs Assessment was used to establish a baseline for the MPO’s performance measurement process and for tracking progress toward the MPO’s goals and objectives for the transportation system.

Needs Assessment Process

Existing and Future Conditions

A critical first step in developing the LRTP and the MPO’s PBPP practiceis to gather, organize, and analyze available sources of data about the current transportation system and future conditions. The Boston region’s assets system must be inventoried before decisions can be made on how to address problems within the constraints of future funding. This process allows the MPO to understand the many needs that must be addressed for all transportation modes.


The forces of an aging population, growing diversity, and economic restructuring will intersect to create a region in 2040 that is markedly different from the one that exists today. Therefore, it is important to establish where people are living, working, and conducting everyday activities to determine how people use the transportation system.

MPO staff and the staff of the Metropolitan Area Planning Council (MAPC), the Boston region’s land use planning agency, prepared detailed socioeconomic and land use projections for the year 2040 to support Destination 2040, and its Needs Assessment. The Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT) helped to lead the process by creating a projections committee with members from the Boston Region MPO, other MPOs in the state, MAPC, and other relevant government agencies. This committee oversaw the development of regional population, labor force, household, and employment projections for each MPO in Massachusetts.

Chapter 2 of this Needs Assessment describes the process for establishing the existing conditions and future 2040 socioeconomic projections. The existing and future socioeconomic projections are used in the MPO’s regional travel demand model, which analyzes existing and future conditions of the transportation system.

Transportation System Analysis

Data for the Needs Assessment were drawn from a variety of sources to document existing conditions for the Boston region’s transportation network. Sources included the MPO’s CMP and various MassDOT-managed databases, such as the High-Crash Database, the Massachusetts Household Travel Survey, the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority’s (MBTA) long-range capital plan, Focus 40, the MPO’s transportation equity program, and other transportation studies.

Chapter 2 of this Needs Assessment also provides a description of the existing transportation system. Chapter 3 provides a description of the travel patterns in the region as forecasted by the MPO’s travel demand model. The travel demand model provides analyses for both the 2016 base year and 2040 no-build conditions. The 2016 base year analysis is based on 2016 population estimates (established in the process described above) and includes projects that were completed and opened for service by the end of 2016. The 2040 No-Build analysis is based on 2040 population projections established in the process described above. In addition to the projects that were completed and opened for service by the end of 2016, the 2040 No-Build network reflects all other projects that were completed between 2016 and 2018, those that were under construction at the time of the analysis, and those that were programmed in the first year of the federal fiscal years 2019–23 TIP. Chapter 3 also provides information on highway, transit, freight, bicycle, and pedestrian travel modes, which use base year (2016) conditions and projects future travel patterns (2040). This information was used to identify transportation needs in the region as summarized in Chapters 4 through 9 by MPO Goal Area.

Public Outreach on Transportation Needs

MPO staff relied on public input to complement its own analyses about existing and future transportation needs in the Boston region. Staff conducted public outreach in 2017 and 2018 for the Needs Assessment. Between online and in-person outreach, MPO staff received a wide variety of feedback on transportation needs and opportunities for improvement.

Staff organized and summarized all of the public input received by goal area in the “Stakeholder/Public Input” sections included in Chapters 4 through 9. MPO staff incorporated this input into its recommendations to address the Boston region’s transportation needs, which are summarized in Chapter 10. More detail on the public outreach process for the Needs Assessment is included in Appendix D.

The Boston Region MPO’s Vision, Goals, and Objectives

The Boston Region MPO’s vision, goals, and objectives are an important part of the Needs Assessment. As such, the Needs Assessment is set up by the MPO’s goal areas to outline transportation needs in the region. In addition, the input collected during the Needs Assessment outreach process was used to revise the vision, goals, and objectives, adopted as part of the previous LRTP, Charting Progress to 2040. Staff found that most of the goals and objectives established in Charting Progress to 2040 were broad enough to cover the topics and concerns identified from public comments as well as results from analyses conducted for the Destination 2040 Needs Assessment. Changes that were warranted included those to

The complete process of the revisions to the vision, goals, and objectives is included in Appendix E. The Destination 2040 vision, goals, and objectives are shown in Figure 1-1.

Figure 1-1
Destination 2040 Vision, Goals, and Objectives


Figure 1-1 is a text table that cites the vision of the Boston Region MPO, and lists the six goals of the MPO, along with their related objectives.






Source: Boston Region MPO.

Summary of Needs and Recommendations

MPO staff developed the Needs Assessment after following the steps described above and presented a summary of these findings by goal area, included in Chapters 4 through 9. As mentioned, recommendations to address transportation needs, based on data and analysis of the Needs Assessment, are presented in Chapter 10. Specifically, staff recommends programs, studies, and actions that the MPO should continue or implement for the first time. This summary was used to identify investment programs to include in Destination 2040 and the TIP, and also identify studies that should be considered as part of the UPWP.

Next Steps in Destination 2040 Development

The MPO used this summary of needs and recommendations in discussions for programming transportation funds for major infrastructure projects—those projects that cost more than $20 million and/or add capacity to the transportation system—and investment programs in Destination 2040. The next steps taken in the LRTP development process are outlined in the Destination 2040 LRTP document and include:

Organization of the Needs Assessment

The Needs Assessment is composed of two items, this written document and the Needs Assessment applications. The applications, created for the MPO’s website, provide the data and information used in developing the Needs Assessment. The Needs Assessment is a critical tool that provides information about various components of the transportation system, including the system’s existing condition, how the system is used, and the projected future use of the system.

Needs Assessment Document

As described above, the MPO’s Needs Assessment is a compilation of existing transportation, population, and employment conditions, and analysis and projections of future conditions that indicate prospective transportation demand. MPO staff studied individual corridors and districts in the Boston region to understand current travel patterns and trends, projected future travel demand, and transportation conditions. Staff combined the information gathered to analyze the entire region. These corridors and districts are described in Chapter 3 along with information on travel patterns. Information about the transportation system helps the Boston Region MPO evaluate its performance relative to goals regarding safety, system preservation, capacity management and mobility, greenhouse gases and air pollutants, transportation equity, and economic vitality. Staff used information from previous and ongoing transportation planning work, including the Charting Progress to 2040 LRTP, the MBTA’s long-range capital plan, Focus 40, the MPO’s CMP, public outreach, transportation equity outreach, MPO studies, and special studies to update the Needs Assessment.

Needs Assessment Applications

To provide the public with detailed information used in the development of the Needs Assessment, staff have created specific applications to illuminate data gathered in the process. These applications may be found on the MPO’s website, and include:

The MPO’s travel demand model (updated with data from the most current (2011) Massachusetts Household Travel Survey) and demographic projections were also used in the Needs Assessment. Existing and projected socioeconomic information (population, housing, and employment data) and the existing and proposed transportation network were important factors in determining transportation needs. A base year of 2016 and a future year of 2040 were used in the modeling process for the transportation network and socioeconomic data.

A detailed description of the modeling process can be found at

Information used in the updated Destination 2040 Needs Assessment is documented on the MPO’s website. It may be found by accessing the LRTP Needs Assessment webpage, and can be found at, or through the Data Catalog webpage,, under the LRTP category.


Chapter 2 - Land Use and the Transportation System >

< Back to Table of Contents