In March 2023, TAC conducted an online survey of 190 member municipalities that have populations under 150,000 people. The survey asked each community about its transportation resources, challenges and interests. It was designed in partnership with volunteers from TAC’s Small Municipalities Integrated Committee and will help inform future TAC projects and learning events.
A total of 76 communities responded to the survey, representing an excellent response rate of 40%. Some notable findings are presented below.
A majority of responding communities (62%) are home to fewer than 50,000 people, with 38% having populations under 25,000. Most communities (75%) have seen their populations grow at least moderately over the last decade, and more than half (56%) have populations that live mostly or entirely in urban or developed areas.
Most communities (83%) have ten or fewer professional or supervisory positions in transportation, with 63% having five or fewer positions (and only one respondent said they have no such position). The following chart identifies the core responsibilities of transportation staff.
Several technical challenges are common in small municipalities. They include road safety (75%), asset management (51%), cycling facilities (41%), winter maintenance (32%), and accessibility (28%).
However, many of the most significant transportation challenges are not technical in nature – with capital funding (75%) being the most common challenge of any kind. Other non-technical challenges include operating funding (62%), staff recruitment and retention (51%), dealing with elected officials and the public (50%), and staff training and development (32%). A complete list of responses is shown in the chart below.
The most common ways that small municipalities engage with TAC are acquiring publications (83%), attending webinars (59%), attending conferences (43%) and attending training courses (35%). Only 18% participate on volunteer committees, with the most frequently attended TAC committees being the Small Municipalities Integrated Committee, Active Transportation Integrated Committee, Traffic Operations & Management Committee, Road Safety Committee, Asset Management Committee, and Soils & Materials Committee.
A majority of respondents (57%) were unaware of the Small Municipalities Integrated Committee before receiving the survey. About a quarter (24%) were already aware of the committee and interested in it but had not participated yet.
The main factors preventing small municipalities from participating more actively in TAC include lack of time (72%), lack of budget (42%), lack of awareness (18%) and corporate travel restrictions (18%).
Responding communities expressed a high degree of interest in information-sharing activities targeted to small municipalities. Most are interested in online training courses (88%), free online lunch-and-learn presentations (79%) and conference sessions (76%). Significant numbers are also interested by in-person training courses (55%) and online roundtable discussions (49%).
Survey respondents were offered the chance to suggest technical topics of interest for TAC information-sharing activities, and the most frequently mentioned areas were traffic calming/speed management (28%), road safety (25%), maintenance and operations (21%), active transportation (17%), asset management (13%) and the design of roads, intersections and roundabouts (13%).
Going forward, volunteers on the Small Municipalities Integrated Committee will consider how TAC can better address the needs and interests of small municipalities. The Committee welcomes new volunteers, whose only necessary qualification is employment by a TAC member organization. Interested individuals can contact TAC for more information.