DRAFT Public Participation Plan


For the Boston Region Metropolitan Planning Organization



Project Manager

Pam Wolfe


Project Principal

Elizabeth M. Moore



Jane Gillis

Ken Dumas


Cover Design

Jane Gillis



The preparation of this document was supported

by the Federal Highway Administration through

MassDOT 3C PL contract #78890 and the Federal Transit Administration through MassDOT 5303 contract #78922.


Central Transportation Planning Staff

Directed by the Boston Region Metropolitan

Planning Organization. The MPO is composed of

state and regional agencies and authorities, and

local governments.



June 2014


Image of Boston Region MPO area with disclaimer text informing you to contact ctps@ctps.org or call 617-973-7100 if you would like more information or report in accessible format




This draft public participation plan documents the Boston Region Metropolitan Planning Organization’s (MPO) Public Participation Program, which comprises the various outreach activities that the MPO engages in to ensure that all members of the public—including populations that are described as traditionally underserved by the transportation system and/or have lacked access to the decision-making process—are given the opportunity to participate in the metropolitan transportation planning process that shapes the Boston region.  


This plan provides information about the outreach activities in which the MPO engages, and the ways in which various federal civil rights mandates are incorporated into outreach activities to ensure inclusive participation. The plan includes in-depth descriptions of the various ways the public may be involved, the transportation planning and programming processes, and MPO meetings and activities. Also covered is the annual public engagement schedule for the MPO's three certification documents: Long-Range Transportation Plan, Transportation Improvement Program, and Unified Planning Work Program.


This draft plan is an update to the MPO's previous public participation plan, Be Informed, Be Involved. It was developed using information obtained through a public survey and research on other MPO public outreach activities, and it reflects recent changes in information and communication technologies. Following review and approval of this draft by the MPO, it will be released for a 45-day public review process. Then, public comments will be incorporated and a final Plan will be presented to the MPO for endorsement in October, 2014. 



Table of Contents


Chapter 1—Introduction

Chapter 2—The Boston Region MPO's, Vision, Function, and Structure

2.1 Purpose of the MPO

2.2 The Boston Region MPO

2.2a The Boston Region MPO’s Central Vision

2.2b Work of the Boston Region MPO

2.2c Composition the Boston Region MPO

Current Membership

MPO Staff: the Central Transportation Planning Staff

MPO Committees

Chapter 3—The MPO’s Approach to Public Participation

3.1 Federal Requirements for Public Participation

3.2 Updating the Public Participation Plan

3.3 MPO Public Participation Vision and Guidelines

3.4 Opportunities for Public Participation

3.4a How to Be Informed

3.4b How to Be Involved

MPO and MPO Committee Meetings

Regional Transportation Advisory Council

MPO-Sponsored Meetings

Other Opportunities for Public Participation

3.4c Notice of MPO Activities

3.4d Access to MPO and MPO-Sponsored Meetings

Transportation and Physical Access

Language Access

3.4e Recent Opportunities for Public Involvement

Chapter 4—Public Participation Schedule and the Transportation Planning Process

4.1 Public Participation Schedule for the TIP and UPWP

4.2 Public Participation Schedule for Changes to Certification Documents

4.2a Amendments to Certification Documents

4.2b Administrative Modification of Certification Documents

4.3 public Participation Schedule for Longer-Time-Horizon Planning

4.3a The Long-Range Transportation Plan

4.3b Federal Recertification Reviews

4.3c The Transportation Equity Program

4.3d Development of the Public Participation Program and Plan

Appendix A—Federal Public Participation Mandates

A.1 Title 23, Section 450 Code of Federal Regulation (CFR)

A.1a §450.316 Interested Parties, Participation, and Consultation

A.1b §450.318

A.1c §450.322

A.1d §450.324

A.1e §450.334

A.2 Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA)

A.3 Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964

A.4 Environmental Justice

A.4a Executive Order 12898, Federal Actions to Address Environmental Justice in Minority Populations and Low-Income Populations, 1994

A.4b Executive Order 13166, Improving Access to Services for Persons with Limited English Proficiency, 2000

A.4c FTA Circular 4703.1, Environmental Justice Policy Guidance for Federal Transit Administration Recipients, 2012

Appendix B—MPO Memorandum of Understanding

Appendix C—Research Conducted by MPO Staff

C.1 Research on Public Participation Needs and Practices

C.2 Public Participation Survey

C.2a Survey Questions

C.2b Survey Responses

C.3 Research of Other MPO Public Participation Practices

C.3a Research Approach

C.3b Public-Involvement Methods and Techniques

Gatherings for Discussion

Media Used for Information and Notices

Media Used for Interaction


Outreach to Protected Populations

Structure and Content of Public-Participation Plans

Graphics and Styles of Public-Participation Plans

C.4 Recommendations for Updating Public Participation Program and Plan.

C.5 Issues Related to the Current Public Participation Program

C.5a Practices and Techniques for Public Outreach

Current Practices and Techniques

Ideas for Improving Practices and Techniques

C.5b Outreach to Protected Populations

C.5c Improving Outreach to Protected Populations

C.6 Issues Related to the Current Public Participation Plan

C.6a Format and Function of the Plan

Current Drawbacks

Ideas for Improvements

C.7 Summary of Suggestions for Public-Participation Program and Plan Update

Appendix D—MPO-Sponsored Meetings and MPO Meetings Outside of Boston


Table of Figures and Tables

Figure 1 Relationship of MPO Certification Documents to other Transportation Planning Documents

Figure 2 Metropolitan Planning Organization Regions

Figure 3 Boston Region MPO Area and MAPC Subregions

Figure 4 MPO Planning Cycle for Development of Annual Documents and
Public Participation

Table C.1 Summary of Suggestions for the Public-Participation Program
and Plan Update



Chapter 1—Introduction


The purpose of this Public Participation Plan (the Plan) is to describe the Boston Region Metropolitan Planning Organization’s (MPO) Public Participation Program (the Program), which comprises the various outreach activities that the MPO engages in to ensure that all members of the public—including populations that have been underserved by the transportation system and/or have lacked access to the decision-making process—are given the opportunity to participate in the metropolitan transportation planning process that shapes the Boston region. The Plan guides the MPO's efforts to offer early, continuous, and meaningful opportunities for the public to help identify social, economic, and environmental impacts of proposed transportation policies, projects, and initiatives.


The Plan incorporates federal and state requirements (listed in Appendix A) for encouraging and ensuring community participation and is modeled on MassDOT’s Public Participation Plan.


Chapter 2—The Boston Region MPO's, Vision, Function, and Structure


In accordance with federal laws and regulations, Metropolitan Planning Organizations are established in urbanized areas across the nation to implement the federally required continuing, comprehensive, and cooperative (3C) transportation planning process. To be continuing, MPO work is conducted on an ongoing basis; to be comprehensive, the work covers all transportation modes, populations, and areas of the region, and addresses their individual needs; and to be cooperative, the work is performed in close communication and consultation with all of the region’s municipalities and a broad base of agencies, organizations, and interest groups.


2.1    Purpose of the MPO

The purpose of the MPO is to decide how to allocate federal funds for transit, roadway, bicycle, and pedestrian projects in the region it represents. The MPO also is responsible for setting the region’s transportation vision, goals and objectives, and for completing the long- and short-range planning needed to program federal transportation funds.


Nationwide, there are more than 380 MPOs that conduct transportation planning in urbanized areas of more than 50,000 people. Each MPO has five core functions:



The end products of the MPO’s work are represented in studies, reports, technical memoranda, data on transportation issues in the region, and the three federally required certification documents discussed above: the LRTP, TIP, and UPWP. Because each MPO in the country must produce these three major documents in order to be certified by the federal government as eligible to program federal transportation funds, they are called “certification” documents.


These functions and other responsibilities of MPOs are described in federal laws and associated regulations. Transportation planning requirements and specifically the 3C process described earlier, date to the Federal-aid Highway Act of 1962, and are regularly revised. The most recent federal transportation legislation is Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century (MAP-21).


2.2    The Boston Region MPO

Although all MPOs operate under the same federal guidance, there is great variability among MPOs, based on the geographic and political characteristics of the state and region in which they are located. Each is free to establish its own membership structure and define many other aspects of how it accomplishes its work. The following sections discuss the framework of Boston Region MPO specifically.


2.2a The Boston Region MPO’s Central Vision

The MPO’s central vision, as stated in the MPO’s Long-Range Transportation plan, Paths to a Sustainable Region, both anticipates the future and responds to current needs. This vision has evolved over many years’ engagement in metropolitan transportation planning—a process that includes technical analyses and other studies of transportation needs, as well as soliciting and incorporating the public’s views. Its central vision guides the MPO in all of its work, and paints a picture of the desired, future-state for the region and its transportation network:


The Boston region will continue to be a major economic, educational, and cultural hub of New England. It will maintain its high quality of life based on its lively commercial and business enterprises, the strength of its institutions, and its healthy and pleasant environment, all supported by its well-maintained transportation system. Notably, looking ahead, an ongoing transformation will be taking place in the region’s communities. Increasingly, they will be places in which people can have access to safe, healthy, efficient, and varied transportation options and find jobs and services within easy reach of affordable housing. The transportation options will include the transit, bicycle, and pedestrian modes, among others, and will reduce environmental impacts, improving air and environmental quality. The role of the region’s transportation system in making the envisioned future possible will be a result of attentive maintenance, cost-effective management, and strategic investments in the system by the Boston Region MPO.


2.2b Work of the Boston Region MPO

As discussed above, the Boston Region MPO is responsible for carrying out the federally required 3C planning process and accomplishing core MPO functions, including development of the three certification documents—the LRTP, TIP, and UPWP.


Figure 1 below depicts how these documents are interrelated and how they connect to other documents developed by the MPO (purple) and by state and regional agencies (red), such as the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA).




Figure 1

Relationship of MPO Certification Documents to other Transportation Planning Documents


FIGURE 1. Relationship of MPO Certification Documents to Other Transportation Planning Documents
Figure 1 is a design that illustrates the interrelationship of the MPO certification documents (i.e., the Long-Range Transportation Plan, Transportation Improvement Program, and Unified Planning Work Program) to other MPO planning documents, including MassDOT planning initiatives; MPO studies and those of others; Congestion Management Process; state TIP; MassDOT’s and MBTA’s Capital Investment Program; and MBTA’s Program for Mass Transportation.



Figure 2

Metropolitan Planning Organization Regions


FIGURE 2. Metropolitan Planning Organization Regions
Figure 2 is a map of the MPO regions, color coded as follows: purple = Berkshire County Regional Planning Commission; mauve = Boston Region Metropolitan Area Planning Council; light mauve = Cape Cod Commission; orange = Central Massachusetts Regional Planning Commission; dark ochre = Franklin Regional Council of Governments; pale ochre = Montachusett Regional Planning Commission; sand = Martha's Vineyard Commission; beige = Merrimac Valley Planning Commission; lavender = Northern Middlesex Council of Governments; orange = Nantucket Planning and Economic Development Commission; peach = Old Colony Planning Council; plum = Pioneer Valley Planning Commission; light lavender = Southeastern Regional Planning and Economic Development District; light outline = These towns are affiliated with both MAPC & OCPC; dark outline = MBTA District Boundary.




In addition to the work described above, the Boston Region MPO coordinates transportation planning with the four other MPOs in the Boston Urbanized Area: the Merrimack Valley, Northern Middlesex, Old Colony, and Southeastern Massachusetts metropolitan planning organizations. This work is accomplished through periodic meetings of the MPOs in the Urbanized Area. In addition, all MPOs in Massachusetts meet with MassDOT and the federal transportation agencies approximately monthly to coordinate on statewide and MPO transportation planning activities.


2.2c Composition the Boston Region MPO

A board of 22 state, regional, and municipal members who work cooperatively to make decisions about regional planning and funding priorities comprises the Boston Region MPO. The MPO region encompasses 101 municipalities and approximately 1,205 square miles, stretching from Boston to Ipswich in the north, Duxbury in the south, and to approximately Interstate 495 in the west. It is home to more than three million people and approximately two million jobs. The diverse communities in the MPO area range from relatively rural communities, such as Dover, to the urban centers of Boston and Cambridge. Transportation planning must take into account demographic, cultural, environmental, and mobility diversity.


A Memorandum of Understanding (MOU, last updated July 7, 2011, see Appendix 2) establishes the MPO’s membership, composition, structure, committees, processes for developing its certification documents, voting rules, and more.


Current Membership


The MPO board also includes two nonvoting members:


The MPO is chaired by the state Secretary of Transportation (or his designee); the vice-chair is currently the Executive Director of MAPC (or his designee).




Figure 3

Boston Region MPO Area and MAPC Subregions

 FIGURE 3. Boston Region MPO Area and MAPC Subregions
Figure 3 is a map outlining the Boston Region MPO area and MAPC subregions. The major regions are denoted by a thick red outline, and consist of: North Suburban Planning Council, North Shore Task Force, Inner Core, South Shore Coalition, Three Rivers Interlocal Council, SouthWest Advisory Planning Committee, MetroWest Growth Management Committee, and Minuteman Advisory Group on Interlocal Coordination. The subregions are denoted with a think ochre-colored line.


MPO Staff: the Central Transportation Planning Staff

Created in 1974, the Central Transportation Planning Staff (CTPS) serves as a comprehensive, multimodal transportation planning staff to the MPO. As such, it is responsible for carrying out the work of the 3C transportation planning process under the direction of the MPO. This includes authoring planning studies and other analyses that are identified in the UPWP, producing the certification documents, and developing and maintaining technical tools, such as a travel demand model set, that help the MPO conduct its work.


MPO Committees

Currently, the MPO has three standing committees that it relies on to fulfill specific functions. The MPO Chair appoints representatives to the committees from among MPO members. Each of the committees reviews issues within its area of responsibility and makes recommendations to the MPO for necessary actions.



Chapter 3—The MPO’s Approach to Public Participation


The Boston Region MPO firmly believes that meaningful public participation should be integral to the organization’s transportation planning work. Public participation improves decision making by helping to illuminate many of the social, economic, and environmental benefits and drawbacks of transportation decisions.


As indicated in the introduction to this document, the MPO’s Program comprises activities the MPO undertakes and materials it produces to facilitate consultation on its planning and programming with all interested parties and members of the public. The Plan is the document (with text and graphics) that explains the Program and provides information about how to become involved in the MPO's transportation decision-making process through Program activities.


3.1    Federal Requirements for Public Participation

As discussed above, public participation is one of the five core functions of an MPO. Federal metropolitan transportation planning rules require MPO public participation plans to:



Other federal legislation, such as the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), and Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, also have public participation requirements that MPOs must implement to ensure access to the planning process for protected populations (please see Appendix 1 for a list of federal legislation). To meet these requirements, the MPO takes steps to include people with disabilities, minority and low-income populations, and those with limited English proficiency (LEP), as discussed throughout this Plan.  


3.2    Updating the Public Participation Plan

As indicated above, MPOs develop and update their public participation programs and plans in consultation with members of the public and other interested parties. Staff performs updates as needed, to reflect changes in federal guidance, requirements and regional needs, and improvements in the state of the practice.


The Boston Region MPO approved its previous public participation plan, Be Informed, Be Involved in 2007 and revised it in 2010 and 2012. This document (which is an updated version of Be Informed, Be Involved) reflects changing public participation requirements and practices. Prior to beginning this update, staff sought input from the public through meetings and a survey to gain insight into ways the public likes to be ‘informed and involved.’ Staff also researched other MPOs to study the innovative and effective practices they currently use. Please see Appendix 3 for a full discussion of the survey and research on other MPO practices.


Using the results of the outreach and research discussed above, as well as general awareness of changing communication techniques and technologies, in-house problem solving, and federal guidance, staff identified areas where updates to the MPO’s Program would be beneficial and recommended a number of specific actions and practices that will be adopted, and which are discussed throughout this updated Plan.


To ensure that the Program continues to evolve and reflect the most current and effective methods, MPO staff will adopt a regular, frequent and more rigorous process for gathering data and evaluating the MPO’s outreach practices, both quantitatively and qualitatively. Quantitative techniques include tracking the level of attendance at events, number of comments received, and use of the website. Qualitative measures include soliciting feedback from members of the public through surveys (both online and at meetings) about their satisfaction with process and outcome, and sense of fair treatment.  


3.3    MPO Public Participation Vision and Guidelines

The MPO’s vision for public participation in the region is to hear, value, and consider—throughout its planning and programming work—the views of and feedback from the full spectrum of the public, and use this input in its decision making. 

In order to accomplish its vision, the MPO has established a number of public participation guidelines, which have been updated to reflect the insights gained through its recent research. The MPO makes every effort to:



3.4    Opportunities for Public Participation

The MPO’s activities and programs—presentations, discussions; various venues for meetings and forums; information on the MPO website; flyers; emails, other notification media, etc.—are designed to meet the preferences and needs of the public.


3.4a How to Be Informed

Primary among the MPO's outreach strategies is its website, which provides comprehensive information about all of the MPO’s work and planning activities, including:



To improve access to, and the appeal of, information on the website, staff will explore the possibility of using an RSS feed to notify interested parties of updated content on the MPO website. To the same end, staff also will use more graphics, including text boxes, relationship and flow charts, and other visualization techniques. MPO staff has developed an internal CTPS Nondiscrimination Handbook that details the practices that staff follow to make the MPO website, and all documents posted on it, accessible.


To ensure web access for people with low or no vision, who use screen readers, all documents are posted in both PDF and HTML. In addition, the MPO makes every effort to make data presented in tables fully navigable by a screen reader and provides alternative text to describe those tables, figures, and images that cannot be read by a screen reader.


To make information more accessible for people with limited English proficiency, the website features a translation function for languages other than English, including Chinese (simplified and traditional), French, Italian, Portuguese, Russian, and Spanish. In addition, vital documents are professionally translated into the three most frequently spoken languages other than English in the MPO region (Spanish, Chinese, and Portuguese), and these translated versions are posted on the website. Staff will reevaluate annually whether additional MPO documents should be identified as “vital documents,” to be translated into the languages of policy. Documents currently defined as vital include:


Audio recordings of MPO meetings are posted on the website so that those who cannot attend meetings can listen to the discussions at any time. These recordings also provide easy access to meeting content for individuals with low or no vision or with low literacy.


The MPO utilizes various other tools to keep the public informed, including an extensive email list with almost 3,000 contacts, MPOinfo, through which it sends information to interested individuals and entities. The MPO also has email lists for Transportation Equity, Access Advisory Committee to the MBTA (AACT), the Advisory Council, and interested parties. In general, notices sent via the email lists focus on major MPO milestones, such as certification document amendments or announcements of public comment periods. The MPO staff also has begun sending News Flashes to email list recipients.


MPO staff take comments and respond to questions from individuals who contact them via telephone or email. Individuals with low or no vision or with low literacy will be informed on the website and at meetings that they may submit comments via a recording or staff transcription of their spoken remarks.


For those who are not connected to email or the internet, staff work with public libraries, requesting that they post and/or distribute MPO information.


3.4b How to Be Involved

The MPO hosts a number of meeting and event types at which the public can learn about current MPO activities. Among these are the meetings of the MPO itself, meetings of MPO committees, and various public participation opportunities. One purpose of these meetings is to present and discuss information, solicit feedback, or gather input from the public on specific topics or plans, in order to inform transportation planning and programming decisions for the region. The other primary purpose is to provide an open and constructive context in which those decisions are made by MPO members.


MPO and MPO Committee Meetings

The MPO typically meets on the first and third Thursday of each month at 10:00 AM. Most meetings are at the State Transportation Building, 10 Park Plaza, in Boston; however, once a quarter, the MPO convenes its meeting off site in one of the MPO municipalities.


MPO meetings follow the general process below, which includes opportunities for public comment: