MARC’s current Long Range Transportation Plan was adopted in 2010 when the “Great Recession” was still relatively new. That plan was based, at least in part, on the optimistic assumption that the economy would recover quickly and return to the “status quo ante” — that the “New Normal” would look a lot like the Old Normal. In fact, the New Normal might well be closer to “Perpetual Uncertainty” than to the Old Normal.
In spite of this uncertainty, MARC’s current expectation is that the upcoming LRTP will be a relatively minor update.
The update will begin with a review of the Policy Framework for the 2010 plan:
We consider that policy framework to be generally excellent. However, we wonder if it is being fully reflected in the spending decisions that MARC makes for the region.
Here are some questions we hope MARC will ponder:
 – Have there been fundamental changes in the national (and global) economy that warrant a careful reconsideration of the region’s transportation policy — something more than a “minor update?”
 – Were the assumptions underlying the 2010 LRTP even consistent with what we knew, or should have known, at that time?
 – Since 2010 there has been a significant change in expectations regarding the availability of federal funds for transportation projects. Considering this new situation, does it make sense to adopt some specific policy guidance regarding construction of new transportation infrastructure, particularly new roads at the region’s edges?
 – The 2010 LRTP was based on MARC’s population and employment forecasts derived from a model that reflects pre-2008 development and commuting patterns. The updated forecasts are being characterized as imperfect, but the best that MARC can do. Should the methodology for deriving these forecasts, particularly forecasts for 2030 and 2040, be subjected to an independent evaluation?
 – A major issue in 2010 was whether to adopt a significantly different forecast, a so-called “Adaptive Scenario” that could be expected to significantly reduce the cost of new infrastructure. Does revisiting such a forecast make even more sense at this time?
 – Current national transportation policy emphasizes “performance measures.” Might an inventory of “underperforming infrastructure” (e.g., streets and other infrastructure that are underused because development is going elsewhere) be a useful endeavor as input to this LRTP update?
 – Access to jobs is a growing concern, both for job-seekers and employers. Can continued location of new jobs at the edges of the region be justified, either from an economic or equity perspective?
 – As the region expands outward, it becomes increasingly costly to provide public transit service, while at the same time many people are choosing to drive less and rely more on transit. Are we willing to see a declining percentage of the region’s population have access to jobs and other opportunities via transit? If not, can we afford to expand the transit system to prevent that from happening?
No doubt many other relevant questions can be posed. During the coming months we look forward to spirited dialog between and among public officials and the region’s citizenry as a new Long Range Transportation Plan is prepared.