II. MPO Staffing and UPWP


“The staff seeks to apply a diverse set of skills to ensure that CDTC’s deliberations are founded on solid technical work and broad public access.”  A Reference Guide to the CDTC, July 2003 edition


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he CDTC carries out its transportation planning activities through a cooperative process involving a Central Staff, the staffs of member agencies, and consultant services as needed.  The Central Staff performs the bulk of the federally funded MPO planning activity.  NYSDOT, CDTA, CDRPC, the Town of Colonie and the local municipalities provide state and local financial support to the program.  



The Central Staff

The CDTC’s Central Staff has long been regarded as highly capable and professional. Led by John Poorman, a nationally respected transportation planner, the staff is composed of eleven transportation planners/engineers, one planning aide and an office manager/administrative professional, for a total of 13 individuals.  The current Unified Planning Work Program (UPWP) budget allots almost $2.62 million to the Central Staff activity.


The Administrative and Financial Standing Subcommittee (A&F), a subcommittee of the Policy Board, sets the staffing plan for the Central Staff.   The staff’s size is moderate, and the addition of positions in response to an increase in Federal planning resources is not automatic.  For example, as PL funding resources increased under TEA-21, CDTC consciously chose to support of the Linkage program rather than having a corresponding increase in staff size.  This decision has greatly benefited local land use and transportation planning efforts (see Section IV: Land Use & Transportation).

The staff enjoys the trust of the CDTC member agencies, and they have achieved a good rapport with communities around the region. It is presently located at 5 Computer Drive West in Albany, but it is scheduled to move this summer to 1 Park Place (also in Albany).



Figure 5:  New CDTC Office Location

Host Agency

When the MPO Policy Boards were established in New York in the mid-1970s, all MPOs agreed that their central staff had to be both professional and independent.  This is deemed necessary to assure the decision makers that the staff’s recommendations were unbiased toward any member agency’s viewpoint.  At the same time, central staffs need “host agencies” to provide logistical support, as they are not legal entities separate from its member agencies. The host agency functions primarily as a funnel for the money; it administratively houses the Staff, pays the salaries before federal reimbursement, and executes contracts on behalf of the staff.  The central staffs in all New York MPOs receive direction from the Policy Board and Planning Committee through the Staff Director; the host agency does not supervise the Staff. 


The CDTA administratively hosts the CDTC staff.  By agreement, CDTA defers virtually all authority over the staff and contractual activities to CDTC’s Policy Board. CDTA is recognized as a model host agency within New York.



Unified Planning Work Program

The MPOs are required to develop Unified Planning Work Programs (UPWPs) as a basis and condition for all FHWA and FTA funding assistance for transportation planning within their boundaries.  UPWPs describe all metropolitan transportation planning and transportation-related air quality planning activities anticipated within the next 1- or 2-year period, regardless of funding source.[1]  MPOs develop these documents in cooperation with the State and public transit agencies.  The degree of detail in the UPWPs differs according to the type of area, with the TMA areas required to have significantly more detail than non-TMA areas. 

Figure 6:  CDTC’s 2004-2005 UPWP

The CDTC adopted its 2004-2005 UPWP in February 2004.    The UPWP covers the period of April 1, 2004 to March 31, 2005, and it reflects the goals and objectives of CDTC’s New Visions Plan, the Community and Transportation Linkage studies, and the New Visions for a Quality Region initiative that began in 2002.  CDTC had intended to migrate to the two-year UPWP format in 2004, but the lack of reauthorization of TEA-21 and the uncertainties associated with NYSDOT’s Transformation process caused the MPO to postpone it for this year.



Key activities for 2004-2005: The UPWP lists the following activities as priority items:

·        New Visions 2030 development

·        Completion of 12 Linkage studies

·        Continued development of NY4 corridor Bus Rapid Transit concept

·        CDTA’s Regional Transportation Development program

·        Work with NYSDOT on its Transformation effort

·        Development of 2005-2010 TIP

·        TEA-21 reauthorization


Funding Resources:  The two primary sources of federal planning funds supporting UPWP activities are FHWA’s Section 104(f) Metropolitan Planning (PL) funds and FTA’s Section 5303 Metropolitan Planning Program (MPP) funds.   The central staff activity is matched by NYSDOT in-kind services. Because the CDTC staff and CDTC member agencies (primarily CDTA and CDRPC) carries out specific activities that are beyond the normal MPO planning activities, the UPWP reflects additional resources ($180,000 in FHWA STP funding for CDTC staff activity on specific project development activities, $30,000 from the Town of Colonie on similar technical services, local cash contribution to support CDTC’s Linkage program, and $606,000 in FHWA’s CMAQ funding for three CDTA projects[2] in the TIP that are planning related).  


In the Section VI: Transportation Improvement Program, we note the openness of the CDTC members in selecting projects for inclusion on the TIP.  This openness and trust can also be seen in the UPWP tasks.  There is a very cooperative working relationship among the CDTC staff, CDTA, CDRPC, the Town of Colonie and NYSDOT in the development of the selected planning activities and which agency will perform them.  For example, NYSDOT uses CDTC staff to develop traffic forecasts in project development activities ($125,000 per year in STP funds are allocated to support effort).  The Town of Colonie contributes $30,000 to support CDTC staff continuing activity associated with the Airport GEIS effort.


CDTC’s capable management of UPWP tasks and studies is noted; CDTC is a model MPO in this respect.  Descriptions of tasks, funding sources, expected products and participating agencies are made clear in the document.  Studies are completed in a timely manner and multi-year tasks are clearly tracked.  While other MPOs are finding it difficult to effectively manage the UPWP, the CDTC does so in a seemingly effortless manner.  They provide useful information and make it accessible in the UPWP.



Central Staff Capabilities

As discussed throughout this document, the Staff continually turns out very professional and readable products, and it is at the forefront of New York MPOs in land use and transportation planning.  


The CDTC’s current travel demand forecasting model is STEP[3], a modified version of TMODEL2.  The CDTC staff (primarily Christopher O’Neill) has modified TMODEL2 with numerous modules to interact, refine and post-process the data.  CDTC is in the process of migrating to VISUM as its regional forecasting model.  VISUM is similar to Transcad, with superior network capability, more GIS friendly, an easy windows interface, and the ability to model transit trips.  CDTC chose VISUM over Transcad because the former is similar in overall structure to TMODEL2 and thus would enable CDTC to customize it with additional modules.  CDTC will also be using a companion model, VISSIM, as a microscale model. VISSIM will enable enhanced modeling of roundabouts and HOV.   




Statewide Efforts

The MPOs in New York State have formed an organization entitled the New York State Association of Metropolitan Planning Organizations (NYSMPOs).  This coalition of MPOs has decided to work together on planning and research efforts toward common goals.  In 2002, the NYSMPO decided to hire a Sarah Siwek and Associates on a contractual basis to serve as the Association’s staff; CDTC administers the contract ($145,000 in 2003-04).  The thirteen MPOs also pay annual dues to the national Association of Metropolitan Planning Organizations; funding for the dues is pooled by the MPOs and administered by CDTC.    


The 13 MPOs in NYSMPO have for several years agreed to pool some of their PL resources into a program call the Shared Cost Initiatives (SCI).  By pooling resources, the MPOs can undertake studies of topics of mutual interest that they individually might not have afforded.  After a study is selected, the funds are administered by a single MPO on behalf of the group.


CDTC is now administratively overseeing the SCI entitled Integrated Transportation and Community Design Study Process.  The purpose of the study is to highlight best practices in the area of integrated planning and design, particularly emphasizing extraordinary community interests and public involvement. As part of this study, 20 projects have been selected that are considered proven successes in integrating transportation into the community and environmental context.  These projects had innovative design, implementation processes, institutional arrangements, financing, and/or planning and programming.  Summary information for each of these projects has been complied and presented, including the project purpose, the results achieved, and the reasons the project is considered exemplary.


From this list of 20 projects, seven projects were chosen for the consultant to conduct an in-depth review and use in the development of a guidebook and training applications.  The final product of the project will be a document containing the brief write-ups of the original 20 projects selected, the detailed descriptions and assessments of the seven case studies, and some level of training materials (yet to be determined).




·        The CDTC should continue evaluating the merits of switching to the 2‑year UPWP format when circumstances allow.



[1]  23 CFR 450.314


[2]  Travel Demand Management ($420,000), Corridor Management Initiative ($153,000), and Transportation Management Center Operating Costs ($20,000).


[3] Systematic Transportation Evaluation and Planning (STEP) model, which is based on TMODEL2 platform with significant modifications by the CDTC staff