Frequently Asked Questions

  1. What is a Council of Governments?
  2. What is a CTC?
  3. What is the FTIP?
  4. What is a Joint Powers Authority?
  5. What is an MPO?
  6. What is the OWP?
  7. What is the RCP?
  8. What is the RHNA?
  9. What is the RTP?
  10. What is an RTPA?
  11. What is MAP-21?
  12. What is SB 375?


What is a Council of Governments?

A Council of Governments (COG) is a Joint Powers Authority (JPA) that provides a network for local governments and other agencies to identify and address common community problems. A COG may be comprised of a volunteer Board of Directors representing all areas of the community including elected leaders, educators, business, social services, water quality and many others. In addition to the authority that is created through their member cities and counties, a Council of Governments such as SCAG carries out state and federal statutory duties. While the exact combination of duties varies from region to region, two of the more formal roles include serving as the Regional Transportation Planning Agency under state law and as the federal Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO).

What is a CTC?

A “CTC” could be one of two types of transportation commissions. First, there are the County Transportation Commissions that are responsible for planning and building (and operating in some cases) transportation projects for the respective county. The CTCs in the SCAG region are the Imperial County Transportation Commission (ICTC), the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (LACMTA), the Orange County Transportation Authority (OCTA), the Riverside County Transportation Commission (RCTC), the San Bernardino Associated Governments (SANBAG) and the Ventura County Transportation Commission (VCTC). “CTC” also stands for the California Transportation Commission, which is responsible for reviewing statewide transportation activities and approving the State Transportation Improvement Program.

What is the FTIP?

The SCAG Federal Transportation Improvement Program is a listing of proposed transportation projects to be funded through a variety of federal, state and local sources over the next six years. SCAG receives lists of proposed projects from the county transportation commissions. SCAG assembles the project list and conducts air quality, financial and “highway gap” analysis. Federal and state laws require that the FTIP be consistent with the Regional Transportation Plan/Sustainable Communities Strategy (RTP/SCS) and meet air quality requirements. All transportation projects that are federally or state funded, or have an air quality impact must be included in the FTIP. The FTIP, which is updated every two years, works much like a Capital Improvement Program in a city or county.

What is a Joint Powers Authority?

Joint Powers Authorities (JPAs) are formed by any two or more governmental entities (federal, state or local) to provide a common service. Many are financing tools that let governmental agencies pool their scarce resources. Some run programs jointly.

What is an MPO?

A Metropolitan Planning Organization is mandated by the federal government to develop plans for transportation, growth management, hazardous waste management and air quality. An MPO must have a “continuing, cooperative and comprehensive” transportation planning process that results in plans and programs consistent with the comprehensively planned development of its corresponding urbanized area. Only one MPO is designated for each urbanized area.

What is the OWP?

Each fiscal year (July 1-June 30), SCAG establishes an Overall Work Program that details the agency’s planning and budgetary priorities for the next fiscal year. SCAG’s federal and state funding partners — Federal Highway Administration, Federal Transit Administration and California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) — must approve SCAG’s OWP each year before it can take effect.

What is the RCP?

The Regional Comprehensive Plan is similar to a General Plan for the region and is in fact intended to function as a voluntary guidebook to assist cities and counties in developing General and Specific plans. To that end, the RCP includes nine chapters: energy, air quality, water, open space, solid waste, transportation, economy, land use and housing and education, each with specific goals and outcomes designed to help set the path toward a more sustainable region. The RCP includes “best practices” and innovative new ideas that individual jurisdictions can include in their own plans.

What is the RHNA?

The Regional Housing Needs Assessment is a state-mandated planning effort conducted by SCAG. It is completed every eight years and serves as the starting point for the local housing element update process. SCAG, along with its subregions, determines each jurisdiction’s “fair share” of the region’s housing need. Local governments, in turn, plan to accommodate that housing need by preparing individual housing elements.

What is the RTP?

Federal and state laws require SCAG to prepare a long-range Regional Transportation Plan every four years. The RTP combines transportation policies and projects to:

  • Address mobility and congestion throughout Southern California
  • Coordinate a balanced regional transportation system
  • Identify adequate funding for transportation projects
  • Meet federal air quality requirements

The RTP presents a 20-year transportation vision for the region and provides a long-term investment framework for addressing the region’s transportation and related challenges. The RTP addresses all modes of transportation including highway and transit projects, as well as high-speed regional transport. Projects must be included in the RTP to be eligible for state and federal funding.

What is an RTPA?

An RTPA is a Regional Transportation Planning Agency. It is a state designation for agencies (e.g., a local transportation commission, a statutorily created RTPA or Council of Governments) required to develop Regional Transportation Plans (RTPs) for their respective area. Sixteen of California’s 43 RTPAs are also MPOs, including SCAG.

What is MAP-21?

The Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act, known as MAP-21, is the newly enacted, successor surface transportation law to SAFETEA-LU that authorizes the nation’s transportation and infrastructure programs through fiscal year 2014 at $101 billion. Significant beneficial provisions of the bill include an increase in the percentage of funds that must be returned individually to the states from which they were collected to 95% under MAP-21, up from 92% under SAFETEA-LU. Additionally, MAP-21 contains a dedicated national freight title that for the first time establishes a national strategy to efficiently move goods to benefit the nation’s economy and spur economic growth and turnaround. Finally, the bill contains many laudable project acceleration provisions that will significantly reduce the time to achieve transportation project delivery without diminishing needed environmental review.

What is SB 375?

The Sustainable Communities and Climate Protection Act (SB 375, Steinberg) requires the development of regional reduction targets for greenhouse gas emissions in long-range regional planning for land use, housing and transportation. The legislation requires SCAG to direct the development of a Sustainable Communities Strategy (SCS) for the region in conjunction with the development of the RTP. If the state-determined targets cannot be identified and met through the SCS, an Alternative Planning Strategy (APS) can be developed and employed in its place. Unique to the SCAG region is the stipulation that subregions can choose to create their own subregional SCS/APS. SB 375 aims to reduce Vehicle Miles Traveled (VMT) per capita by encouraging sustainable development for the future. The development of the RTP/SCS depends on meaningful collaboration with local governments and stakeholders. SCAG has and will continue to develop the RTP/SCS by partnering with subregions, counties, cities, CTCs and other local and regional stakeholders through an interactive and bottom up process.