Glossary of Transportation terms & Acronyms


Air Pollution Control District. The public health agency whose mission is to improve the health and quality of life for all valley residents through efficient, effective and entrepreneurial air quality management strategies.
Air Quality Conformity Analysis. MCAG's RTP and TIP must demonstrate conformity to the State Implementation Plan (SIP) before seeking approval by the MPO or acceptance by the US D.O.T. MCAG must conduct the air quality conformity analysis to demonstrate meeting the SIP emission budgets for Ozone, PM2.5 and PM10.
Air Resource Board. The state agency responsible for adopting state air quality standards, establishing emissions standards for new cars sold in the state, overseeing activities or regional and local air pollution control agencies and setting regional targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions from passenger vehicles.
Alternative Planning Strategy. Senate Bill 375 (SB 375) provides that if the Sustainable Communities Strategy falls short of meeting the regional greenhouse has reduction targets from passenger vehicles, the region must prepare an "alternative planning strategy", that if implemented, would meet the targets.
American Disability Act. The federal civil rights law that prohibits discrimination against individuals with disabilities in all areas of public life including transportation. It requires public transportation systems to be accessible for persons with disabilities, including paratransit service.
American Planning Association. Professional organization representing the field of urban planning in United States. It provides leadership in the development of vital communities by advocating excellence in planning, promoting education and citizen empowerment.
American Public Transit Association. Professional organization working to strengthen and improve public transportation through advocacy, innovation and information sharing. APTA and its members and staff work to ensure that public transportation is available and accessible for all Americans in the communities across the country.
American Tracks Railroad formerly National Passenger Railroad Corporation. The national rail operator, connects America in a safer, greener and healthier ways. With 21,000 route miles in 46 states, the District of Columbia and three Canadian provinces, Amtrak operates more the 300 trains each day - at speeds of 150 mph - to more than 500 destinations. Amtrak also is the operator of choice for state- supported corridor services in 15 states and four commuter rail agencies.
Average Daily Trips/Average Daily Traffic. A measure used primarily in transportation planning and transportation engineering. Traditionally, it is the total volume of vehicle traffic of a highway or road for a year divided by 365 days.

California Department of Transportation. State agency responsible for the design, construction, maintenance and operations of the California State Highway System, as well as the portion of the Interstate Highway System within the state's boundaries.
California Environment Quality Act. State laws providing certain environmental protections that apply to all transportation projects funded with state funds.
California Transportation Commission. A state level commission, consisting of nine members appointed by the governor, that establishes priorities and allocates funds for highway, passenger rail and transit investments throughout California. The CTC adopts the State Transportation Improvement Program, or STIP and implements state transportation policy.
Capital Funds. Moneys to cover one-time costs for construction of new projects such as roads, bridges, bicycle/pedestrian paths, transit lines and transit facilities to expand the capacity of a transportation system, or to cover one-time purchases of buses, etc.
Capitol Improvement Program. Long-range strategic plan that identifies capitol projects; provides a planning schedule and financing options.
Census Data
Information used by transpiration planners to make projections about future travel patterns, housing needs and the like. Required by the U.S. Constitution, the U.S. Census is a complete enumeration of the population conducted every 10 years by the U.S. Census Bureau (the last one was completed in 2010.)
Citizens Advisory Committee. The 17-member advisory committee to the MCAG Governing Board is comprised of private sector individuals. Committee members are appointed by the Governing Board to serve based on the geographic location of their home or business and their work experience.
Committed Revenues. Revenues that are dedicated by law, ballot measure or prior MCAG programming action to specific transportation investments. Committed revenues comprise the vast majority of all funds identified in the long-term regional transportation plan.
Compressed Natural Gas. Methane stored at high pressure and can be used in place of gasoline, diesel fuel and propane/LPG. CNG combustion produces fewer undesirable gases than the fuels mentioned above. It is safer than other fuels in the event of a spill, because natural gas is lighter than air and disperses quickly when released. CNG may be found about oil deposits or may be collected from landfills or wastewater treatment plants where it is known as biogas.
A process in which transportation plans and spending programs are reviewed to ensure they are consistent with federal clean air requirements; transportation projects collectively must not worsen air quality.
Congestion Mitigation Air Quality. A federal source of funding for projects and activities that reduce congestion and improve air quality, both in regions not yet attaining federal air quality standards and those engaged in efforts to preserve their attainment status.
Council of Governments. COGs are multi-service entity with state and locally defined boundaries that delivers a variety of federal, state and local programs while carrying out its function as a planning organization, technical assistance provider and "visionary" to its member local governments. Also known as Association of Governments or Regional Councils. MCAG serves this role in Merced County.

Environment Impact Statement. National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) requirement for assessing the environmental impacts of federal actions that may have a significant impact on the human environment.
Environmental Impact Report. An information document, required under CEQA, which will inform public agency decision-makers and the public generally of the significant effects of a project, possible ways to minimize significant effects and reasonable alternates to the project.
Environmental Justice. This term stems from a Presidential Executive Order to promote equality for disadvantaged communities and promote the inclusion of racial and ethnic populations and low-income communities in decision-making. Local and regional transportation agencies must ensure that services and benefits, as well as burdens, are fairly distributed to avoid discrimination.
Environmental Protection Agency. Federal agency established to develop and enforce regulations that implement environmental laws enacted by Congress to protect human health and safeguard the natural environment.

Federal Highway Administration. U.S. Department of Transpiration agency responsible for administering the federal highway aid program to individual states, and helping to plan, develop and coordinate construction of federally funded highway projects. FHWA also governs the safety of hazardous cargo on the nation's highways.
Federal Highway Planning Funds. As authorized through the Federal Transportation authorizations, MCAG receives FHWA PL funds each year for planning and administrative activities.
Federal Transit Administration. U.S. Department of Transportation agency that provides financial and planning assistance to help plan, build and operate rail, bus and paratransit systems. The agency assists in development of local and regional traffic reduction programs.
Federal Transportation Improvement Program. MPOS like MCAG are required by federal law to prepare an FTIP to indicate how the Regional Transportation Plan (RTP) will be implemented. The FTIP is a four-year list of financially-constrained projects which are programmed for Federal funding or regionally significant. The FTIP identifies projects programmed regionally for funding under several programs. It is required to be updated every two years.
Financially Constrained Projects. It is a federal requirement that long-range transportation plans include only projects that have a reasonable expectation of being funded, based upon anticipated revenues. In other words, long range transportation plans cannot be pie-in-the-sky wish list of projects. They must reflect realistic assumptions above revenues that will likely be available during the 25 years covered in the plan.
Fiscal Year. Annual schedule for keeping financial records and for budgeting transportation funds. California's fiscal year (FY) runs from July 1 through June 30.
Federal Fiscal Year. Annual schedule for keeping financial records and for budgeting transportation funds. The federal fiscal year runs from October 1 through September 30.
Flexible Funding. Unlike funding that flows only to highways or only to transit by a rigid formula, this is money that can be invested in a range of transportation projects. Examples of flexible categories include the Surface Transportation Program (STP) and the Congestion Mitigation Air Quality (CMAQ) program.

Geographic Information System. Powerful mapping software that links information about where things are with information about what things are like. GIS allows users to examine relationships between features distributed unevenly over space, seeking patterns that may not be apparent without using advanced techniques of query, selection, analysis and display.

HOV Lane
Highway Occupancy Vehicle Lane. A lane restricted to vehicles with two (and in some cases three) or more occupants to encourage carpooling. Vehicles include automobiles, vans, buses and taxis.
Highway Bridge Replacement & Rehabilitation Program. A safety program that provides federal-aid to local agencies to replace and rehabilitate deficient locally owned public highway bridges.

Joint Powers Agreement. Two or more agencies that enter into a cooperative agreement to jointly wield powers that are common to them. JPA's are a vehicle for the cooperative use of existing governmental powers to finance and provide infrastructure and/or service in a cost-efficient manner.

Local Agency Formation Commission. A public agency with county-wide jurisdiction established by state law. LAFCOs are located in all 58 counties and exercise regulatory and planning powers in step with their prescribed directive to oversee the establishment, expansion, governance and dissolution of local government agencies and their municipal service areas to meet current and future community needs.
Local Transportation Authority. The body responsible for implementing a transportation sales tax fund. MCAG serves as the local transportation authority for Merced County.
Local Transportation Fund. These funds are derived from the Transportation Development Act and are available to meet transit needs. If there is a remaining balance, then these funds are distributed to the local agencies for streets and road maintenance and rehabilitation.
Long Range Transit Plan. An intermodal transportation plan with at least a 20-year horizon. MPOs are required by federal law to develop a long range plan and update it as least every 4 years to keep consistent with existing conditions, re-evaluate proposed plans, programs and projects, and validate air quality conformity analysis. The RTP serves as MCAG's long range plan. It outlines our region's long range transportation vision and lists all future projects that our region anticipates to undertake in the next 25 years.

Memorandum Of Understanding. A formal agreement between two or more parties. Companies and organizations can use MOUs to establish official partnerships.
Merced County Association of Governments. MCAG is an association of city and county governments, with members who meet to solve regional problems such as transportation, solid waste and air quality. This Association of Governments is where the cities and county come together as equal partners to solve problems that can only be accomplished by working together.
Merced Date Special Services. MDSS provides date products and professional services which help to meet the information needs of local government officials and business leaders. Using state-of-the-art equipment, MDSS is dedicated to addressing today's challenges with tomorrow's technology.
Metropolitan Planning Organization. A federally required planning body responsible for the transportation planning and project selection in its region; the governor designates an MPO in every urbanized area with a population of over 50,000. MCAG is Merced County's MPO.
Metropolitan Statistical Area. A geographic region with a relatively high population density at its core and close economic ties throughout the area.

National Highway System. A network of strategic highways within the United States, including the Interstate Highway system and other roads serving major airports, ports, rail or truck terminals, railway stations, pipeline terminals and other strategic transport facilities.
National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. An agency of the Executive Branch of the U.S. government, part of the Department of Transportation. It describes its mission as "Save lives, prevent injury, reduce vehicle-related crashes."
Negative Declaration. A document that states upon completion of an initial study, that there is no substantial evidence that the project may have a significant effect on the environment.

Overall Work Program. MCAG develops an OWP annually, describing proposed transportation planning activities for the upcoming fiscal year, including those required by federal and state law.
Ozone. A colorless unstable toxic gas with a pungent odor and powerful oxidizing properties, formed from oxygen by electric discharges or ultraviolet light. It differs from normal oxygen (02) in having three atoms in its molecule (O3).

Curb to curb bus, van and taxi services used to transport elderly and disabled riders. Sometimes referred to as a dial-a-ride service, since trips are made according to demand instead of a long a fixed route or according to a fixed schedule.
Performance Measure. Indicators of how well the transportation system or specific transportation project will improve transportation conditions.
(1) verb:To assign funds to a project that has been approved by MCAG, the state or another agency and (2) noun: a system of funding for implementing transportation projects or policies such as through State Transportation Improvement Plan.
Project Study Report. Defines and justifies the project's scope, cost and schedule. PSRs are prepared for state highway projects and PSR equivalents are prepared for projects not on the State Highway System. under state law, a PSR or PSR equivalent is required for STIP programming.

Regional Surface Transportation Program. The Merced Region get an apportionment every year. Due to our small MPO classification, we are able to exchange all federal RSTP dollars for State-only dollars with Caltrans. The county and the cities get a guaranteed lifeline amount off the top. The remaining balance gets distributed based on the most current DOF population figures.
Regional Transportation Improvement Plan. A listing of highway, local road, transit and bicycle projects that the region hopes to fund; complied by MCAG every two years from priority lists submitted by local jurisdictions. The California Transportation Commission (CTC) must either approve or reject the RTIP in its entirely. Once the CTC approves RTIP, it is combined with those from other regions to comprise 75 percent of the funds in the State Transportation Improvement Program or STIP.
Regional Transportation Plan. A master plan to guide the region's transportation investments for a 25-year period. Updated every three years, it is based on projection of growth in population and jobs and the ensuing travel demand. Required by state and federal law; it includes programs to better maintain operate and expand transportation.
Regional Transportation Planning Agency. A state-designated agency responsible for preparing the RTP, the RTIP and for administering state transportation funds. MCAG is Merced County's Regional Transportation Planning agency.
Request for Proposal. A solicitation, often made through a bidding process, by an agency or company interested in procurement f a commodity, service or valuable asset, to potential suppliers to submit business proposals.
Right of Way. The land required for the construction and/or operation of transportation infrastructure.

Sales Tax Authority
An agency that administers a voter-approved county transportation sales tax program.
San Joaquin Valley Unified Air Pollution Control District. Eight county districts empowered by the state to regulate air emission within the Central Valley counties (San Joaquin, Stanislaus, Merced, Madera, Fresno, Kings, Tulare and Kern Counties).
Self Help Counties
A term used to describe counties that have take the initiative to supplement available state and federal funds by enacting local voter-approved funding mechanisms - such as half-cent sales taxes to pay for transportation improvements. Merced County is a self help county.
Service Authority for Freeway Emergencies. As the Service Authority for Freeway Emergencies for Merced County, MCAG in partnership with California Highway Patrol and the California Department of Transportation, over sees the installation and operation of call boxes along HWY 99, 152 & Interstate 5 through $1 surcharge on motor vehicles registrations.
Short Range Transit Plan. Reviews the existing public transit services within Merced County and lays out a 10-year Vision for an enhanced transit network and proposes a stepwise approach to pursuing that vision for the next five years.
Social Services Transportation Advisory Council. The purpose of the SSTAC is to solicit the input of transit dependent and transit dis-advantaged persons, including the elderly, handicapped, low income persons and youths regarding transit needs in Merced County. The SSTAC is convened annually, at minimum, for the Unmet Transit Needs process as required by the Transportation Development Act.
State Highway Operation and Protection Program. Caltrans three-year program to address traffic safety, roadway rehabilitation, roadside rehabilitation or operate needs on the state highway system.
State Implementation Plan for Air Quality. A document that shows the steps planned to meet federal air quality standards (outlined in the Clean Air Act). Each nonattainment area prepares an air quality improvement plan; those are combined to make up the statewide SIP.
State Transit Assistance. Provides funding to the regions and to transit operators for mass transit operations and capital projects.
State Transportation Improvement Program. What the California Transportation Commission (CTC) ends up with after combining various RTIPs, as well as a list of specific projects proposed by Caltrans. Covering a five-year span and updated every two years, the STIP determines when and if transportation projects will be funded by the state. Projects included in the STIP must be consistent with the long range transportation plan.
Surface Transportation Program. STP moneys are "flexible", meaning they can be spent on mass transit, pedestrian and bicycle facilities, as well as on roads and highways.
Sustainable Communities Strategies. A new element of the RTP, as required by SB 375, that demonstrates how development patterns and the transportation network. policies and programs can work together to achieve the targets set by ARB for reducing greenhouse gas emissions from cars and light trucks in a region.

Technical Planning Committee. The seven-member committee is made up of professional municipal employees from all jurisdictions in Merced County. This committee reviews and passes on recommendations to the MCAG Governing Board, by way of the Technical Review Board (TRB). Each jurisdiction selects the staff members they chose to serve on the committee.
Technical Review Board. The seven-member board is composed of the city managers from each of the cities and the executive officer of Merced County. The TRB sends their recommendations on issues directly to the MCAG Governing Board.
Transit Joint Powers Authority for Merced County. The administration for "The Bus", the public transit provider for Merced County.
Transportation Demand Management. Strategies that result in more efficient use of transportation resources, such as ridesharing, telecommuting, park-and-ride programs, pedestrian improvements and alternative work schedules.
Transportation Development Act. State law enacted in 1971. TDA funds are generated from tax of one-quarter of one percent on all retail sales in each county; used for transit, special transit for disabled persons and bicycles and pedestrian purposes. TDA moneys are collected by the state and allocated by MCAG to fund transit operations and programs. In non-urban areas, TDA funds may be used for streets and roads under certain conditions.
Transportation Expenditure Plan. (Measure V) The measure is expected to generate $15 million a year in new revenue for local and regional transportation needs throughout Merced County.
Transportation Improvement Program. A short term (covering four years) program of transportation projects that will be funded with federal funds expected to flow to the region; the projects contained in the TIP are drawn from and consistent with, the long-range transportation plan.

Uncommitted Revenues. Anticipated transportation revenues available for new investments after accounting for revenue committed by law, ballot measure or MCAG programming actions.
United Stated Department of Transportation. The federal cabinet-level agency with responsibilities for highways,, mass transit, aviation and ports; it is headed by the Secretary of Transportation. The DOT includes the Federal Highway Administration and the Federal Transit Administration, among others. There are also State DOTs, known in California as Caltrans.

Vehicle Miles Traveled. One vehicle (weather carrying one passenger or a bus carrying 30 people) traveling one mile constitutes a vehicle mile. VMT in one measure of the use of Merced County freeways and roads.