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Applied Research in MAG Activities

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To carry out its core missions, MAG conducts extensive applied research to drive its planning and policy-making activities. As part of its transportation planning activities, for example, MAG funds and conducts primary quantitative and qualitative research to determine transportation trends, behaviors, and priorities and to inform computer models to determine effects on transportation plans and projects. One such project is MAG’s Household Travel Survey—an in-depth study of 7,000 Maricopa County households to identify demographics, travel routines and transportation behaviors. The data provides complete information on the daily travel of residents in Maricopa County and the surrounding areas to determine how to enhance public transportation, improve roads, reduce traffic congestion, and improve walking and bicycle paths.

The same holds true for the regional air quality modeling work conducted by MAG for carbon monoxide, ozone, and particulate matter. The modeling process involves a broad range of technical processes and research, including development of emissions inventories, validation of modeling procedures, and simulation of future air quality conditions. Air quality modeling analyses also must be performed to determine the conformity of transportation plans, programs, and projects.  Effectively maintained, updated, and enhanced models produce essential data regarding the pollution problem in the Maricopa County area and facilitate effective regional air quality planning.

MAG also relies on socioeconomic modeling and research to develop population projections for the region as part of its designated responsibilities. Applied research is also an important factor in our economic development efforts, with research including cross-border studies on how to connect small and medium sized businesses in our trade region to those in Mexico and Canada, as well as research examining how tourism dollars could be increased by millions in Arizona with the extension of the border crossing card zone from the current 75-mile limit to the entire state.

MAG has also used data produced from the Maricopa County annual trip reduction survey to better understand commuting patterns and commute “sheds” (the areas workers travel from home to work).  The trip reduction survey data includes more than 500,000 surveys of employees with companies that have 50 or more workers.  Mapping where a community’s residents work and where the workforce in the community lives provides a good visual picture of commute patterns in the region.

In addition, research is a key component of our human services planning efforts, such as research regarding the need for domestic violence shelters and evaluations of criminal justice procedures. The MAG Human Services Division conducts applied research in areas such as aging, domestic violence, and homelessness. The data generated through surveys and other research activities informs regional planning and the development of new projects and initiatives. For example, a scientifically valid survey of people 55 years plus shaped the development of the Arizona Age-Friendly Network.

As an agency that consistently conducts applied research, MAG serves the region’s data needs through a variety of tools and services. This includes an online data center, interactive mapping tools, and extensive committee work to distill and assess the data as it applies to the formulation of public policy. MAG’s research is regularly cited in national journals and is used by national agencies such as the Environmental Protection Agency to develop and fine tune sophisticated models used throughout the country. MAG’s work is highly regarded not just in Arizona, but in the United States. MAG research also is often applied in broad regional contexts—such as efforts conducted in partnership with other metropolitan planning organizations within the Intermountain West, and in specific applications such as the national Strategic Highway Research Program (SHRP2) grants, as well as in local policies and initiatives.