Metropolitan planning organization voting structure and transit investment bias: Preliminary analysis with social equity implications

Arthur C. Nelson, Thomas W. Sanchez, James F. Wolf, Mary Beth Farquhar

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

21 Scopus citations


Metropolitan planning organizations (MPOs) are the conduit through which billions of federal and state transportation dollars are funneled annually for regional transportation faculties. MPO transportation investments are guided by long-term regional transportation plans that are implemented through short-term transportation improvement plans. Because transportation investments shape land use patterns, decisions by MPOs have important implications for regional land use patterns and, by implication, social equity. For their part, MPO decisions are made by a board whose composition varies widely across the nation. They are not elected to serve on the MPO, however, and MPOs are not required by federal law to have balance in voting. Therefore, the potential exists for MPO decisions to be biased and favor certain investments beneficial to particular metropolitan areas' interests at the expense of others. This study reviews MPOs generally, discusses variation in their voting structures, and reports results from a statistical analysis on the pattern of transportation investments with respect to MPO voting structure. It was found that for each suburban MPO voting member, controlling for other factors, MPO investments are shifted 1% to 9% away from transit (and other modes) to highways. Implications for land use patterns and especially social equity are described. More research should be undertaken, however, to confirm whether and the extent to which such bias exists.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1-7
Number of pages7
JournalTransportation Research Record
Issue number1895
StatePublished - Jan 1 2004
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Civil and Structural Engineering
  • Mechanical Engineering


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