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Frequently Asked Questions

What is the MPO Institute?

This is the newest program from the AMPO Research Foundation, a nonprofit federal 501(c)3 organization established in 2013 with a mission to serve the transportation planning community to improve livability and quality of life in metropolitan regions through the metropolitan planning process. The AMPO Research Foundation is the educational foundation of Association of Metropolitan Planning Organizations.

A critical struggle we’ve heard from our community is staffing: hiring, training, retaining, and retirement. Part of our response to this is to create courses that can be used:

  • at the university level to give students the basics they need to enter the community,
  • to onboard new staff,
  • to retrain current staff for new roles and advancement,
  • and to capture the institutional knowledge of seasoned professionals before they retire.

Who can take the courses? Is this just for MPO staff?

The courses are available to anyone, but are specifically built with a few key audiences in mind:

  • MPO Staff: These courses are designed with oversight from other MPO staff to ensure they capture a boots-on-the-ground point of view. So whether your brand new or stepping into a new role, there’s a course for you!
  • State DOT Liaisons: It’s not just MPOs that are facing high turnover rates, so are State DOTs. Think of this as an easy way to onboard new staff to better engage with your MPOs.
  • FHWA Division/FTA Region Offices: Similar to the DOTs, all stakeholders in the 3C process should understand MPO basics. We continually work with USDOT HQ to ensure our materials are up-to-date and accurate based on the latest federal guidance.
  • Board Members: When you’re elected to office you most likely aren’t thinking that you may end up serving on an MPO Board so consider this your one-stop shop for training so you can better serve your region.
  • Students: There’s a lot to cover in planning and policy programs – and MPOs are a pretty unique community. Expand your horizons and build your resume with additional courses!

Do these courses offer AICP credits or certificates?

We are an approved CM provider for the national American Planning Association. It is our intent to offer AICP credits for all courses provided, however we are still in the process of building the courses and will need to submit them for approval. Check back later for updates!

As well as AICP, each course will provide an MPO Institute certificate upon completion. These certificates are a great way to track staff professional development and demonstrate you have the knowledge you need for career advancement.

I'm a University professor, how can i integrate these courses into my curriculum?

We’d love to work with you! We’re in the initial stages of partnering with a handful of universities to take the MPO 101 course and scale it down for students. Our goal is to provide this abbreviated MPO 101 course for free to students and if possible, connect you with a local MPO Director for an optional guest lecture.

If you’re interested in participating please contact Caitlin Cook, for more information.

How do I take the online courses?

Online courses aren’t ready just yet but we like your enthusiasm! The Institute courses will officially launch late in Spring 2024. Once they’ve opened you’ll be able to set up an account through our Institute Portal where you can select and pay for virtual courses. Stay tuned for more information!

Are in-person workshops offered?

Absolutely! There’s nothing like an in-person workshop to really dive deep on new material, discuss ideas in a group, and ask questions. We plan to provide in-person workshops starting at the end of 2024. For pricing and more details please fill out a quick survey and staff will get back to you.

I'm interested in more than what's currently offered, what are the courses you have planned for the future?

We hear you, it feels like there are a million things we need to cover. We’ve decided to start with the basics of MPOs and are prioritizing those courses first, which is why you’ll see in our initial offerings the MPO 101 and Federal Funding Courses. But we’ve already identified the need for courses such as:

  • Deep Dives into Core Products (MTP, TIP, UPWP, etc)
  • EJ/Title VI/Equity Practices
  • Performance Based Planning & Programming
  • Board Training
  • Executive Director Training (HR, Ethics, Staffing)
  • Trending Topics (EV, AI in Planning, Housing)

If you have ideas for courses, please reach out to Caitlin Cook,!


I'm an AMPO member, why isn't this included as part of my dues?

This is the newest program from the AMPO Research Foundation, a nonprofit federal 501(c)(3) established in 2013 as an educational foundation with a mission to serve the transportation planning community to improve livability and quality of life in metropolitan regions through the metropolitan planning process. The Research Foundation operates separately from AMPO dues. You may be familiar with the ActivitySim project within the Research Foundation, which is funded through a pooled-funding consortium.

So short answer, the Research Foundation operates independently from dues and traditionally has relied on pooled funding and grants, which means the MPO Institute, as the newest program, needs to be revenue-generating to operate. We’d like to get to a point where we can afford to make core courses free to the AMPO community, and in the meantime we’re trying to make content as affordable as possible.

How much does this cost?

There are a couple ways to approach this:

  • Virtual courses can be taken on a case by case basis by individuals and will range from $200 – $800 per course, depending on the length and depth of content.
  • For the first year we’re offering a Founder discount to Groups. Groups can purchase courses at a discounted rate – prices will depend on how large the group is. Groups can be an entire statewide MPO group or an individual MPO with large staff.
  • Workshops will be priced on a case-by-case basis depending on the length (1/2 day to 2 days), federal per diem rates, and the course selected.

If you’re interested in learning more about the Group Purchase or Workshops please fill out this quick survey to receive a quote.

What do I get as a part of my Group Discount?

We love to see statewide MPO groups and organizations go in as a group – the more the merrier! If you select a group purchase you’ll receive:

  • a copy of the national MPO 101 course
  • a copy of the Federal Funding course
  • and a dedicated portal

A little bit about this dedicated portal…

It will work the same as the Institute but it’s restricted access to your group. This means your group members can log in and access the two courses without having to pay for them as individuals. This also means that we can assign a few individuals as Instructors within the portal, which will allow them to upload additional material. So for instance, does your state or MPO have its own training and webinars? If so, you can upload it to your group portal making it a one-stop shop for everyone in your group.

Struggling to visualize the portal? We get it, we’re visual people too, contact Caitlin Cook, for a quick demo of the portal and to discuss how you could use it for your group.

I'm a small MPO and I'm not sure I can afford this, how can you help?

We know that roughly 2/3 of MPOs are small, meaning they can have anywhere from .5 FTE to 6 FTE and a budget to match. This often means they can be left out of training opportunities and aren’t able to attend as many conferences. This is why we are focusing the Institute materials as virtual e-learning, so you can take at any time without the added travel costs. Additionally, we’re doing our best to price these courses as low as possible and we plan to run promotions, so be on the lookout for discounts throughout the year!