The Role of MPO's in Preparing for Security Incidents and Transportation System Response

The Role of the Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) In Preparing for Security Incidents and Transportation System Response

Michael D. Meyer, Ph.D., P.E.

Georgia Institute of Technology

Although the immediate organizational response to security incidents and disasters will be the responsibility of security/public safety agencies, there is an important role that metropolitan planning organizations (MPOs) can play in promoting coordinated planning in anticipation of unexpected events or natural disasters.  In addition, the MPO could also provide a centralized location of information on transportation system conditions and local/national responses that might be useful in an emergency.  This white paper examines these possible roles and raises other issues that should be considered by MPO officials.  Disaster/security planning is divided into several components that reflect the different elements in dealing with such events, e.g., prevention, surveillance/monitoring, information dissemination/ communications, incident response, and system recovery.  The prospective role of the MPO in each of these components of an incident/disaster event response is discussed. 

Major Discussion Points

  • The short timeframe and public safety aspects in responding to unforeseen emergency situations require a command and control organizational structure for providing immediate and effective allocation of emergency response resources. Thus, the planning for, and actual response to, emergency situations in a metropolitan area is the primary responsibility of the emergency response/public safety/operations agencies in the region.
  • Because of the widely varying political and institutional contexts for metropolitan planning organizations (MPOs) in the U.S., there is no singular model that can best describe the most appropriate role for MPOs in security/disaster planning.
  • However, because of its role as a forum for cooperative decision making in a metropolitan area, and its responsibility for allocating financial resources to improving the performance of the transportation system, the MPO does have a role to play in security/disaster planning.
  • The role of the MPO will most likely vary by stage of the security/disaster incident (e.g., the MPO’s role might be very different in developing a collaborative strategy to prevent harmful effects of events versus in the actual post event investigation activities).