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Research Projects

STATUS: Complete YEAR: 2013 TOPIC AREA: Sustainability, energy, and health CENTER: NCST

Changing Workforce Development Needs for Regional Transportation Planning Agencies in California

Project Summary

The transportation industry faces future workforce challenges, including a lack of trained personnel in fields such as engineering, construction management, and intelligent transportation systems.  Little, if any, research has been done on the training and workforce needs at the regional level where Metropolitan Planning Agencies (MPOs), Councils of Government (COG), and transit agencies are engaged in both transportation planning and operations. In California, the workforce capacity of MPOs in particular was challenged by the 2008 passage of Senate Bill (SB) 375. This legislation uses the transportation planning process to achieve reductions in greenhouse gas emissions. It requires MPOs, in partnership with the California Air Resources Board (CARB), to establish greenhouse gas emissions targets. MPOs are also required to include a Sustainable Communities Strategy (SCS) in the regional transportation plan that demonstrates how a given region will meet established targets.

This project aims at understanding how fundamental changes from SB 375 and other legislative mandates have impacted MPOs from a workforce standpoint. Using online surveys, job scans, and in-depth interviews with members of COGs and MPOs in California, the research team determined the importance of several factors on workforce capacity. These factors include recruitment, available funding for professional development, curriculum content in college and university programs, and the role of in-service training. The report seeks to document the evolving role of MPOs resulting from the kind of mandates enacted by SB 375 and the concurrent demand for both traditional skills sets relating to regional planning processes and those that respond to demands for planners to: (1) Optimize existing projects by making them “smarter” and further ensuring that these projects contribute to environmental sustainability; and (2) link transportation planning to land use patterns with the intention of diminishing vehicle miles travelled (VMTs) and associated pollutants. The study’s findings will contribute to the knowledge of workforce development needs as well as the potential for policy responses at the federal, state, and local level.

Principal Investigator: Thomas O’Brien | California State University, Long Beach
Research Team: Tyler Reeb and Sneha Jaishanka | California State University, Long Beach 

NCST Grant Cycle: NCST Federal 2013-14
Funding: $94,000.00
Sponsors: U.S. Department of Transportation

Link to report:


Tom O'Brien
Director, METRANS CSULB Programs
6300 State University Drive
Suite 255Long Beach, CA 90815
United States
[email protected]