Freight Planning and the Metropolis: The Role of Metropolitan Planning Organizations in Regional Freight Transportation Planning Public Deposited

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  • March 19, 2019
  • Howlett, Marc
    • Affiliation: College of Arts and Sciences, Department of City and Regional Planning
  • The efficient and reliable movement of goods undergirds the United States economy, yet the freight transportation network faces increasing threats from congestion, aging infrastructure, and limited public funds. Addressing these challenges is complicated by the multimodal nature of freight transportation and the direct involvement of public sector, private sector, quasi-governmental and non-profit organizations. One policy response has focused on strengthening the freight planning of metropolitan planning organizations (MPOs), the federally mandated entities responsible for transportation planning in metropolitan regions. Despite policies to bolster MPO freight planning, numerous studies indicate that overall MPO freight planning capacity is low although select MPOs maintain robust freight planning programs. This dissertation examines the role of MPOs in regional freight planning and seeks to better understand variations in MPO freight planning capacity. The study focuses on two potential explanations for these variations: 1) the effects of federal policy, and 2) the effects of multisector freight stakeholder organizations in the regional context of freight planning. The literatures on freight planning, organizational capacity, federal transportation policy, and urban regime theory provide the theoretical foundations for this examination. The study employs a sequential mixed methods research design with a national survey of MPO freight planning with subsequent freight planning case studies in four regions. Analysis of survey data confirms previous research that overall MPO freight planning capacity remains low with some exceptions. Regression discontinuity models show minimal effect of federal policy to explain variations in MPO freight planning capacity. Case study findings demonstrate the importance of regional freight stakeholders from multiple sectors to support, and in certain instances substitute, MPO freight planning activities. The case studies also underscore the centrality of state departments of transportation in the planning efforts of MPOs. The dissertation concludes with avenues for future research and discusses the policy implications of this research, implications that are particularly relevant given the uncertain future of transportation policy in the United States.
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  • In Copyright
  • Rodriguez, Daniel
  • Kaza, Nikhil
  • Willis, Rachel
  • Appold, Stephen
  • McDonald, Noreen
  • Doctor of Philosophy
Degree granting institution
  • University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Graduate School
Graduation year
  • 2015
Place of publication
  • Chapel Hill, NC
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