In recent years, dozens of organizations have gotten involved to help Regional Transportation Plans and Sustainable Communities Strategies better promote healthy, equitable regions throughout California. And these long term Regional Transportation Plans have taken great strides forward.
But will these great new plans just sit on the shelf? Now is our first opportunity to find out, because each region in the state is on the brink of adopting their Transportation Improvement Program (TIP). TIPs are a critical step in implementing Regional Transportation Plans, so now is also a good time to discuss how to integrate the RTP and TIP processes so that the public involved in creating these long-range plans also helps them get implemented.
What exactly is a TIP, you ask? Fabulous question. The TIP is designed to implement the programs, policies, and projects approved in the Regional Transportation Plan. The Regional Transportation Plan describes a future intent to fund certain projects, but projects cannot be actually funded until they appear in the TIP.
There are certain exceptions of course. The TIP must list all regionally-significant surface transportation projects for which federal and state funds or actions by federal agencies are anticipated. Projects without regional significance that are entirely funded by local dollars, such as a local bike lane funded by development impact fees, do not have to appear. Nevertheless, state and federal funding is a significant slice of the funding pie.
Whereas the Regional Transportation Plan looks out twenty or thirty years, the TIP looks out just four years. Like the RTP, the TIP must be financially constrained, meaning that the amount of dollars committed to the projects must not exceed the amount of dollars estimated to be available, but now it must be constrained year by year – meaning we are talking real money, not money that might become available some day, and this money is going to be spent soon, so the TIP is worth watching closely.
What does all this mean? It means that is that if you care about a transportation expenditure, it is not enough to get it included in the RTP – it must then move into the TIP. And if you care about how a region spends its transportation money, it’s not enough to look at its long-term vision – it’s equally or more important to look at the money it is actually preparing to send out the door.
That is why we look forward to greater discussion about how some of the coalitions that have been working on the SCS/RTPs are now turning their attention to the TIPs, and how MPOs can engage the public as they put together their TIPs. Over time, we wonder if MPOs could increasingly integrate the long-range planning effort of the RTP and the short-term work to implement them.
TIPs across the state are out for public review right now, with adoption being expected this fall. To learn more about TIPs in general, see ClimatePlan’s TIP tipsheet. If you’re interested in getting involved in TIP work in your region, contact us and we’ll connect you to other organizations we know of that are engaged in the TIP in your region.