Addressing Climate Change Adaptation in Regional Transportation Plans A Guide for California MPOs and RTPAs

The reality of a changing climate means that transportation and planning agencies need to understand the potential effects of changes in storm activity, sea levels, temperature, and precipitation patterns; and develop strategies to ensure the continuing robustness and resilience of transportation infrastructure and services. This is a relatively new challenge for California’s MPOs and RTPAs – adding yet one more consideration to an already complex and multifaceted planning process. In that light, this guide is intended to support planning agencies in incorporating the risks of climate change impacts into their existing decision-making, complementing the broader planning and investment processes that MPOs and RTPAs already manage.

This guide was designed to account for the varying capacities and resources among MPOs and RTPAs, featuring methods that can be used by organizations seeking to conduct a more sketch-level assessment of the risk and vulnerability of the regional transportation assets to climate impacts, or in-depth analysis that incorporates separate stakeholder processes and geospatial analyses. It is oriented to provide information for two types of audiences.

  • A Basic User, a MPO or RTPA conducting climate impact assessments and/or climate vulnerability and risk assessments for the very first time. This pathway is appropriate for agencies with limited resources and GIS capability.
  • An Advanced User, a MPO or RTPA that has experience with climate impact assessments, has strong interagency partnerships with universities, natural resources agencies or public works departments and have more staff resources and technical tools to dedicate to the effort.

For both of these user types, this guide is a resource to help MPOs and RTPAs to: 

  • Assess the relative risks to their transportation system infrastructure and services of different climate stressors (sea-level rise, temperature changes, precipitation changes, extreme weather events); 
  • Conduct an asset inventory and vulnerability assessment of existing infrastructure;
  • Incorporate climate impact considerations into future long-range transportation planning and investment decisions.

Currently, there is no requirement to date to incorporate climate adaptation into regional transportation planning. Nevertheless, this guide provides information and tools to help MPOs/RTPAs anticipate the incorporation of climate assessment and adaptation into future planning efforts.

Mainstreaming Climate Change Adaptation Strategies into New York State Department of Transportation’s Operations: Final Report

This study identifies climate change adaptation strategies and recommends ways of mainstreaming them into planned actions, including legislation, policies, programs and projects in all areas and at all levels within the New York State Department of Transportation (NYSDOT). In accomplishing its goal, the study team relied on: a literature review; discussions with key NYSDOT personnel based on a Climate Risk Information Summary worksheet; information from other ongoing and completed projects in climate change adaptation, especially those in the New York region; and advice and guidance from the NYSDOT‘s Technical Working Group and Columbia‘s Advisory Working Group for the project. The results of the project are presented (following the Introduction) in terms of: the current understanding of climate change science and climate futures for New York State; climate change impacts and vulnerabilities to transportation in NYS; adaptation strategies and best practices; potential adaptation strategies for mainstreaming climate change into the NYSDOT‘s operations and investment, including the detailed results of climate risk management discussions with personnel from 2 Divisions, 12 Offices, and 1 Region; and a communications and technology transfer plan.

Flooded Bus Barns and Buckled Rails: Public Transportation and Climate Change Adaptation

The objective of this project is to provide transit professionals with information and analysis relevant to adapting U.S. public transportation assets and services to climate change impacts. Climate impacts such as heat waves and flooding will hinder agencies’ ability to achieve goals such as attaining a state of good repair and providing reliability and safety. The report examines anticipated climate impacts on U.S. transit and current climate change adaptation efforts by domestic and foreign transit agencies. It further examines the availability of vulnerability assessment, risk management, and adaptation planning tools as well as their applicability to public transportation agencies. The report provides examples of adaptation strategies and discusses how transit agencies might incorporate climate change adaptation into their organizational structures and existing activities such as asset management systems, planning, and emergency response. By focusing specifically on public transportation, and the unique assets, circumstances, and operations of that mode, the report supplements transportation sector wide studies whose scopes did not allow for more in-depth treatment of transit.

Coastal Adaptation Strategies Handbook

The Coastal Adaptation Strategies Handbook summarizes the current state of NPS climate adaptation and key approaches currently in practice or considered for climate change adaptation in coastal areas in order to guide adaptation planning in coastal parks. The chapters focus on policy, planning, cultural resources, natural resources, facility management, and communication/education. The handbook highlights processes, tools and examples that are applicable to many types of NPS plans and decisions. One chapter includes a case study of Hurricane Sandy response and recovery strategies including changes to infrastructure. Another chapter features practical coastal infrastructure information including cost per unit length of constructed features (including seawalls, beach nourishment, and nature-based features). The level of detail varies by topic depending on the state of research and practice in that field.

This handbook provides guidance for NPS managers, partners, and other practitioners in exploring and implementing climate change adaptation in coastal settings, including Great Lakes areas but excluding nearshore and open-ocean issues such as oceanographic changes to marine ecosystems, and impacts to threatened and endangered species habitats such as offshore shoals, and fisheries. 


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Sustainability Coordinator
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Climate Change Specialist
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Climate Adaptation Senior Analyst

New Zealand Ocean Acidification Observing Network


National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research
41 Market Pl
1010 Auckland
New Zealand
36° 50' 38.922" S, 174° 45' 42.57" E

New Zealand’s National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research is working to increase their ability to better predict climate change, as well as to create decision-making tools to reduce the vulnerability of New Zealand’s economy and environment to that change. For New Zealand, this means paying particular attention to regional atmosphere-ocean systems. One component is the New Zealand Ocean Acidification Observing Network (NZOA-ON).

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