The federal government requires urban areas to have a Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) to plan and approve all federal transportation spending within the region. Every 5 years, the MPO has to update its Long Range Transportation Plan (LRTP). As part of this process, the MPO takes public comments on the draft plan. Every written comment that is received during the required 45-day comment period is printed in an appendix of the plan and the Federal Highway Administration holds MPOs and state DOTs accountable for how they incorporate the formal comments made by the public during this timeframe into their ongoing planning process. Therefore, this is a key time and place to make your comments about the region’s transportation system known because these comments and survey responses will, by law, be shared with powerful elected and appointed officials at the state, local, and national level and incorporated into their long-range planning, which eventually translates into projects being built. These comments also influence the MPO when they have opportunities to spend short-term funding. For example, just last year the MPO received $6.1 million to directly allocate from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. Over half of this funding was devoted to bicycle and/or pedestrian facilities. The activism of local citizens helped make that happen, but in order to make bigger changes such as making sure that all road facilities are built to accommodate bicycles and pedestrians or shifting larger amounts of funding from highways to public transit, much more citizen input is needed to document what is important to residents of the Asheville area. Taking the LRTP survey or submitting a comment by email are quick, easy ways to start having an impact on our transportation system. If you want more information about the plan, there is one more open house next Wednesday, September 15th, at the Buncombe County Training Room on College Street by the traffic circle. The open house runs from 2-8 pm and you can stop in, ask questions and give comments at any time.