Changing Workforce Development Needs for Regional Transportation Planning Agencies in California

In California, Senate Bill 375 (SB 375, 2008) required each Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) to develop a Sustainable Communities Strategy (SCS). This mandate required MPOs to set targets and develop strategies to reduce transportation-related greenhouse gas emissions within their region. To deliver effectively on this policy, there has been an amplified need for a workforce with both technical and functional skills.

In the context of MPOs, technical (or technological) skills include the use of intelligent transportation systems, new engineering practices, and modeling (using mathematical formulas to represent and predict the impact of multiple actions by many people on transportation or air quality, etc.). Functional skills include public outreach, communications, stakeholder engagement, and leadership.

This policy transition was made more difficult by rising retirement rates within the public sector and the growth of intelligent technologies being used in the workplace. By 2020, 16.5% to 20% of the entire workforce in the United States will be 65 or older and, in the transportation sector, this percentage is even higher. Many of the important technical and functional skills for the modern planning workforce require a facility with information technology, modeling software, social media, and outreach that were not typically developed in the past.

In this research, MPOs were approached through surveys and in-depth interviews, with questions on changes in their processes and workforce needs due to various factors, including the requirements of SB 375.