Calendar & Agendas

Glossary of Acronyms

Transportation Planning Acronyms and Terms

The transportation arena has a language all its own. Navigating your way through the complex web of transportation terminology can be a challenge. So, we’ve put together this list of acronyms and commonly used words in transportation planning.


The extent to which facilities are barrier free and useable by persons with disabilities, including wheelchair users. Examples of facilities are sidewalks, buses, trains, etc.

Activity Center
Locations where there are a concentration of residences, business, commercial and other uses that draw a large number of people on a daily basis.

Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA)
Federal civil rights legislation for disabled persons passed in 1990; calls on public transit systems to make their services more fully accessible as well as to underwrite a parallel network of paratransit service.

Alternative Fuel Vehicles
Low-polluting fuels instead of high-sulfur diesel or gasoline. Examples include methanol, ethanol, propane or compressed natural gas (CNG), liquid natural gas (LNG), low-sulfur or "clean" diesel and electricity.

Annual Element
Transportation projects, included in the Transportation Improvement Program (TIP), that are proposed for funding in the current year. The annual element, as part of a four-year TIP is submitted to the U.S. Department of Transportation (U.S. DOT) as part of the required planning process.

Automatic Vehicle Location (AVL)
A system that senses, at intervals, the location of vehicles such as buses or subways. These vehicles are equipped with special electronic equipment that communicates a signal back to a central control facility.

Return to Top of Page back to top

Baltimore Metropolitan Council (BMC)
The organization of the Baltimore region’s elected executives, representing Baltimore City and Anne Arundel, Baltimore, Carroll, Harford and Howard counties. The goal of the organization is to improve the quality of life and economic vitality in the Baltimore region. Areas of activity include: Air and Water Quality Programs, Building Permits Data System, Computer Mapping Applications; Cooperative Purchasing; Economic and Demographic Research; Emergency Preparedness and Public Safety; Rideshare Coordination; and Transportation Planning. BMC provides technical and staff support to the BRTB.   Learn more about BMC

Baltimore Regional Transportation Board (BRTB)
The federally recognized Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) for transportation planning in the Baltimore region. As an MPO, the BRTB is directly responsible for making sure that any federal money spent on existing and future transportation projects and programs is based on a continuing, cooperative and comprehensive (3-C) planning process. Members of the BMC Board serve on the BRTB. In addition, the Mayor of Annapolis and representatives of the Maryland Departments of the Environment (MDE), Planning (MDP),  and Transportation (MDOT),  and the Maryland Transit Administration (as a voting representative for eligible transit providers) also serve on the BRTB. The BRTB also convenes a number of subcommittees and advisory groups that focus on specific technical and policy areas.    Learn more about the BRTB

BRTB Empowered Representative 
Each member of the BRTB designates an individual empowered with the rights and responsibilities of BRTB membership to act in place of the BRTB member.

Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC)
The congressionally authorized process the Department of Defense uses to reorganize its base structure to more efficiently and effectively support our forces, increase operational readiness and facilitate new ways of doing business. The most recent iteration of base realignment was enacted as federal law in November 2005 as is known as BRAC 2005. Source:

Bicycle & Pedestrian Advisory Group ( BPAG)
A subcommittee of the BRTB that focuses on tasks such as (1) Developing and implementing the regional bicycle and pedestrian plan; (2) Promoting biking and walking in the region through events such as Bike-to-Work Day and Safe Routes to Schools.

Bus Rapid Transit (BRT)
Bus service that is, at a minimum, faster than traditional local bus service and, at a maximum, includes dedicated lanes just for BRT operations. To reduce travel time and to provide faster service, BRT may incorporate ITS technologies that provide off vehicle payment, rapid boarding, and/or route divergences.

Return to Top of Page back to top

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 the transportation system, or to cover the purchase of buses and rail cars.

Central Business District (CBD)
The downtown retail trade and commercial area of a city or an area of very high land valuation, traffic flow, and concentration of retail business offices, theaters, hotels and services.

Census Data
Information used by transportation 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 listing of the population conducted every 10 years by the U.S. Census Bureau (the last one was completed in 2010).

Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality Improvement Program (CMAQ)
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.

A process in which emissions generated by projects in transportation plans are reviewed to ensure they are consistent with federal clean air requirements; transportation projects collectively must not worsen air quality.   ALearn more aout air Quality Conformity

Cooperative Forecasting Group (CFG)
A subcommittee of the Baltimore Regional Transportation Board. The mission of the CFG is to collaboratively develop socio-economic projections (population, households, employment, and labor force) for the Baltimore region in conjunction with jurisdictions in the Washington area. The BRTB endorses these projections each year for use in travel demand modeling and testing air quality conformity.

Return to Top of Page back to top

Environmental Justice
This term stems from a Presidential Executive Order to promote equity for disadvantaged communities and promote the inclusion of racial and ethnic populations and low-income communities in decision-making.  Transportation agencies must ensure that services and benefits, as well as burdens, are fairly distributed to avoid discrimination.

Equity Analysis
Consistent with federal requirements for environmental justice, the BRTB conducts an equity analysis covering the 20-year regional transportation plan to determine how the benefits and burdens of the plan’s investment strategy affect minority and low-income communities.

Return to Top of Page back to top

Federal Highway Administration (FHWA)
U.S. Department of Transportation 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 Transit Administration (FTA)
U.S. Department of Transportation agency that provides financial and planning assistance to help plan, build and operate rail, bus and paratransit systems. 

Financial Constraint
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 wish lists of projects. They must reflect realistic assumptions about revenues that will likely be available during the 20 years covered in the plan.

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 funding categories include the Surface Transportation Program (STP) and the Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality Improvement (CMAQ) program.

Fiscal Year (FY)
An annual schedule for keeping financial records and for budgeting transportation funds. Maryland’s fiscal year runs from July 1 through June 30, while the federal fiscal year runs from Oct. 1 through Sept. 30.

Freight Movement Task Force
A subcommittee of the BRTB that provides the freight community a voice in the regional transportation planning process. Th e FMTF is a forum for Baltimore region freight stakeholders to share information and discuss motor truck, rail, air, and waterway concerns.

Return to Top of Page back to top

Geographic Information System (GIS)
A system of computer hardware, software and data for collecting, storing, analyzing and issuing information about areas of the earth. GIS can display attributes and analyze results electronically on a map.  For example, BMC uses GIS to create maps that show things such as congestion, minority populations in relation to transportation projects, growth patterns, etc.

Global Positioning System (GPS)
A system that uses satellite signals to track the location or position of vehicles or vessels on earth. In the Baltimore region, BMC uses GPS in cars to track and monitor traffic congestion on area highways.

The GROW AMERICA Act (Generating Renewal, Opportunity, and Work with Accelerated Mobility, Efficiency, and Rebuilding of Infrastructure and Communities throughout America) is a four-year surface transportation reauthorization bill submitted to Congress in April 2014. If approved, it would replace MAP-21.

Return to Top of Page back to top

lnteragency Consultation Group (ICG)
A subcommittee of the Baltimore Regional Transportation Board that focuses on coordination of the transportation air quality conformity process. This group works to promote coordination among the transportation and air quality agencies for the region.

The term “mode” is used to refer to a means of transportation, such as automobile, bus, train, ship, bicycle and walking. Intermodal refers specifically to the connections between modes.

Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS)
A broad range of diverse technologies such as information processing, communications, control, and electronics which can help transportation systems in many ways, including congestion management.

Return to Top of Page back to top

Land Use
The Environmental Protection Agency defines land use planning as the degree to which land reflects human activities (like agriculture, residential and industrial uses) and describes land use and management practices by people.

Level of Service (LOS)
A report card that rates traffic flow from A (excellent) through F (flunks), and compares actual or projected traffic volume with the maximum capacity of the intersection or road in question.

Long Range Transportation Plan (LRTP)
The LRTP is a statement of the ways the region plans to invest federal funding in the transportation system over the next twenty years. Updated every four years, it is based on projections of growth in population and jobs and the ensuing travel demand. Required by federal law, it also includes programs/projects to better maintain,  operate and expand transportation.  Learn about the 2015 plan, Maximize2040.  

Magnetic levitation: A rail transportation system with exclusive right-of-way which is propelled along a fixed guideway by the use of magnets on the rails and under the rail cars. Service between Baltimore and Washington has been studied.   See for more information. 

MAP-21 - Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act 
MAP-21 was signed into law by President Obama on July 6, 2012. The bill funded surface transportation programs at over $105 billion for fiscal years (FY) 2013 and 2014.

Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO)
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. The BRTB is the Baltimore region’s designated MPO.

Mixed Use
In land-use and transportation planning, generally refers to different compatible land uses located within a single structure or in close proximity to each other. An example is buildings that host stores on the bottom level and offices or residences above it.

The ability to move or be moved from place to place. (Source: FHWA Planning Glossary)

The types of transportation available for use, such as rail, bus, personal vehicle or bicycle. Also includes air and water travel.

Return to Top of Page back to top

Nonattainment Area
Any geographic region of the United States that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has designated as not attaining the federal air quality standards for one or more air pollutants, such as ozone and carbon monoxide.

Ground-level ozone is an air pollutant that causes human health problems, and damages crops and other vegetation. It is a key ingredient of urban smog. The Baltimore region is a nonattainment area for Ozone. Learn more about ozone pollution.

Return to Top of Page back to top

Particulate Matter
Also known as particle pollution or PM, is a complex mixture of extremely small particles and liquid droplets found in the air. By themselves, these particles and droplets are invisible to the naked eye. But together, they can appear as clouds or a fog-like haze. PM is a serious health concern. Because of their small size, they can get into sensitive areas of the lungs and heart, causing major problems.  Learn more about particulate matter

Door-to-door bus, van and taxi services used to transport elderly and disabled riders. Paratransit is sometimes referred to as dial-a-ride service, since trips are made according to demand instead of along a fixed route or according to a fixed schedule.

Pedestrian-Oriented Development
Development that is designed with an emphasis primarily on the streets, sidewalks, and on pedestrian access to the site and building(s), rather than emphasizing personal-vehicle access and parking. Buildings generally are placed close to the street and the main entrance is oriented to the street's sidewalk. Although parking areas may be provided, they are generally limited in size and are located at the side or rear of the buildings. This type of development also is characterized by the mix of uses within walking distance of one another, allowing people to move easily among many destinations.

Performance Measures
Indicators of how well the transportation system or specific transportation projects will improve transportation conditions.

Public Advisory Committee (PAC)
An advisory body to the BRTB made up of individuals and representatives of community organizations and industry professionals. Members are approved by the Baltimore Regional Transportation Board to (1) Provide independent, region-oriented advice on issues related to key regional transportation planning activities; (2) Promote public awareness and participation in the regional transportation planning process; and (3) Promote equity in the regional transportation planning process.  Learn more about the Public Advisory Committee

Public Transportation
Transportation by bus, rail, or other conveyance, either publicly or privately owned, which provides to the public general or special service on a regular and continuing basis. Also known as "mass transportation", "mass transit" and "transit." (Source for transit definitions: FHWA Planning Glossary)

Bus - Large motor vehicle used to carry more than 10 passengers, including school buses, intercity buses, and transit buses.

Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) - Bus service that is, at a minimum, faster than traditional local bus service and, at a maximum, includes dedicated lanes just for BRT operations. To reduce travel time and to provide faster service, BRT may incorporate ITS technologies that provide off vehicle payment, rapid boarding, and/or route divergences.

Circulator Bus - A bus serving an area confined to a specific locale, such as a downtown area or suburban neighborhood with connections to major traffic corridors.

Commercial Bus - Any bus used to carry passengers at rates specified in tariffs; charges may be computed per passenger (as in regular route service) or per vehicle (as in charter service).

Commuter Rail - Urban passenger train service for short-distance travel between a central city and adjacent suburb. Does not include rapid rail transit or light rail service.

Demand Response Vehicle - A nonfixed-route, nonfixed-schedule vehicle that operates in response to calls from passengers or their agents to the transit operator or dispatcher.

Feeder Bus - A bus service that picks up and delivers passengers to a rail rapid transit station or express bus stop or terminal.

Heavy Rail - An electric railway with the capacity to transport a heavy volume of passenger traffic and characterized by exclusive rights-of-way, multicar trains, high speed, rapid acceleration, sophisticated signaling, and high-platform loading. Also known as: Subway, Elevated (railway), or Metropolitan railway (metro).

Light Rail - A streetcar-type vehicle operated on city streets, semi-exclusive rights-of-way, or exclusive rights-of-way. Service may be provided by step-entry vehicles or by level boarding.

Mobility/Paratransit – A service operated by the Maryland Transit Administration for citizens who are unable to use Local Bus, Metro/Subway or Light Rail service. Service is provided within three-quarters (3/4) of a mile of any MTA fixed-route service in Baltimore City, Baltimore County or Anne Arundel County.

Rapid Transit - Rail or motorbus transit service operating completely separate from all modes of transportation on an exclusive right-of-way.

Return to Top of Page back to top

A form of transportation, other than public transit, in which more than one person shares the use of the vehicle, such as a van or car, to make a trip. Also known as "carpooling," "buspooling" or "vanpooling."   Visit to learn more

Surface Transportation Program (STP)
One of the key funding programs in the federal transportation bill. STP moneys are “flexible,” meaning they can be spent on mass transit, pedestrian and bicycle facilities, as well as on roads and highways.

The traditional definition of sustainability calls for policies and strategies that meet society’s present needs without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. (Source: US Environmental Protection Agency)

Return to Top of Page back to top

Transportation Control Measure (TCM)
A strategy to reduce driving or smooth traffic flows in order to cut auto emissions and resulting air pollution. Examples of TCMs include carpool lanes, new or increased transit service, and ridesharing services to get people into carpools and vanpools.

Technical Committee (TC)
The TC reviews and evaluates all transportation plans and programs from a technical standpoint. Composed of transportation planners and engineers appointed by BRTB members, the Technical Committee makes recommendations to the Baltimore Regional Transportation Board based on technical sufficiency, accuracy and completeness of all plans and programs. This input enables the Board to have a technical viewpoint prior to making decisions.

Refers to employees who work at an alternate site, such as at home, usually one or more days per week, thereby reducing their commutes. Learn more about 

Title VI
Refers to Title VI of the Federal Civil Rights Act of 1964, and requires that transportation planning and programming be nondiscriminatory on the basis of race, color and national origin. Integral to Title VI is the concept of environmental justice.  

Traffic Count
A record of the number of vehicles, people aboard vehicles (occupancy) or both that pass a given checkpoint during a given time period.

Transportation Demand Management (TDM)
Programs designed to reduce demand by automobiles on the transportation system. Examples are the promotion and use of transit, alternative work hours, ridesharing, etc. Land-use planning also plays a role in providing alternate travel options.

Transportation Improvement Program (TIP)
A short-term (covering four years) program of transportation projects that will use federal funds expected to flow to the region; the projects contained in the TIP are drawn from, and are consistent with, the long-range transportation plan.

Transit Oriented Development (TOD)
A type of development that links land use and transit facilities to support the transit system and help reduce sprawl, traffic congestion and air pollution. It includes housing, along with complementary public uses (jobs, retail and services), located at a strategic point along a regional transit system, such as a rail hub.

Travel Demand Model
Used by transportation planners for simulating current travel conditions and for forecasting future travel patterns and conditions. Models help planners and policy-makers analyze the effectiveness and efficiency of alternative transportation investments in terms of mobility, accessibility, and environmental and equity impacts.

Return to Top of Page back to top

Unified Planning Work Program (UPWP)
A work program and budget that lists the transportation studies and tasks to be performed by Baltimore Metropolitan Council staff or one of the BRTB members. The work program, which is developed annually, begins in July of a given year and ends the following June.

United States Department of Transportation (U.S. DOT)
The federal cabinet-level agency with responsibility for highways, public transportation, 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.

Value Pricing
The concept of assessing higher prices for using certain transportation facilities during the most congested times of the day, in the same way that airlines offer off-peak discounts and hotel rooms cost more during prime tourist seasons. Also known as congestion pricing and peak-period pricing, examples of this concept include higher bridge tolls during peak periods or charging single-occupant vehicles that want to use carpool lanes.

Vehicle Miles Traveled (VMT)
One vehicle (whether a car carrying one passenger or a bus carrying 30 people) traveling one mile constitutes a vehicle mile. This number is used in transportation models because reducing VMT can help ease traffic congestion and improve air quality.

Return to Top of Page back to top

Refers to a single route, or a system of routes, between points that is relatively short, barrier-free, interesting, safe, well-lighted and comfortable, inviting pedestrian travel. Walkable Communities are areas that incorporate these kinds of principles.


If you have any comments about this glossary or just can’t find the word you are looking for, please contact  the Public Involvement Coordinator at 410-732-0500 x1047 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Last Updated on Tuesday, 25 July 2017 18:42