The City of New Orleans is located in the center of southeast Louisiana and is one of the oldest cities in the United States. Since its founding in 1718 and because of its strategic location on the Mississippi River, New Orleans is a principal world port as well as home to a multi-cultural population. Southeast Louisiana’s over 1.2 million residents are proud of its distinctive cuisine, unique music and architecture, dramatic and prolific wetland ecology and inimitable festivals and traditions. The region is comprised of Orleans Parish (coterminous with the boundaries of the city of New Orleans), St. Tammany Parish along Lake Pontchartrain to the north, St. Bernard Parish along Lake Borgne to the east, Plaquemines Parish following the Mississippi River to the south and Jefferson Parish home to the Louis Armstrong International Airport to the west.
The RPC as a Planning and Development District
The Regional Planning Commission is the planning and development district (PDD) for the five parishes of southeast Louisiana: Jefferson, Orleans, Plaquemines, St. Bernard and St. Tammany Parishes. These state designated districts (LA Act 472) work to improve the physical and social needs of their multi-parish areas through regional planning and economic development programs.
Metropolitan Planning Organization
The Regional Planning Commission also serves as the Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) for three Census Bureau designated urbanized areas (UZAs): The Greater New Orleans Transportation Management Area (TMA), on the south shore of Lake Pontchartrain, and the two urbanized areas of Covington/Mandeville and Slidell, on the north shore of Lake Pontchartrain. Urbanized areas by definition consist of a central core and adjacent densely settled territory that together contain at least 50,000 people, generally with an overall population density of at least 1,000 people per square mile. The south shore TMA consists of a contiguous urbanized area with a population over 200,000 spreading across Jefferson, Orleans, Plaquemines, St. Bernard, St. Charles and St. John parishes. The south shore TMA is Louisiana’s most populous metropolitan area.
Metropolitan Statistical Area
As the designated planning and development district and metropolitan planning organization in the region, the RPC works with statistical information from the Census Bureau for the designated seven-parish Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA) of Jefferson, Orleans, Plaquemines, St. Bernard, St. Charles, St. John and St. Tammany. This region’s MSA consists of three Census Bureau defined urbanized areas and the surrounding densely settled areas. Additional parishes qualify to be included in the MSA by meeting a specified level of commuting to the urban centers and by meeting certain other requirements of metropolitan character, such as a specified minimum population density or percentage of the population that is urban.
Metropolitan Planning Study Area (MPA)
The metropolitan planning process includes analysis of transportation alternatives to meet future system demands. The Metropolitan Planning Study Area (MPA) includes all or portions of parishes, cities, towns and villages that are or are likely to become urbanized within a 30 year planning period. The MPA boundary is established after the Urbanized Area Boundary (UAB) is set by the MPO using the Census UAZ as a base and adjusted outwards to reflect future transportation needs. The RPC sets its MPA boundaries in coordination with local planning departments and the Louisiana DOTD.
Local Governments Comprising the New Orleans metropolitan area
Jefferson Parish is the state of Louisiana’s most populous parish covering approximately 680 square miles adjacent and west of Orleans Parish. The parish contains six municipalities and the highly populous unincorporated area of Metairie.
- City of Gretna
- City of Harahan
- City of Kenner
- City of Westwego
- Town of Grand Isle
- Town of Jean Lafitte
Orleans Parish is the state of Louisiana’s most densely populated parish. The parish covers approximately 350 square miles. Orleans Parish is coterminous with the City of New Orleans.
Positioned at the gateway of the Gulf of Mexico, Plaquemines Parish hosts a comprehensive transportation network incorporating transfer terminals and miles of deep draft water frontage to accommodate the movement of goods. In addition, to the parish’s strategic location and infrastructure, Plaquemines possesses a range of natural assets. The parish consists of unique ecological wonders, including fragile wetlands, which serve as habitat for marine life and other animals. The silt deposits from the Mississippi River provide Plaquemines with extraordinarily fertile soil which supports a diversity of flora. Most of Plaquemines population resides in Belle Chasse, which houses the Naval Air Station, Joint Reserve Base.
St. Bernard Parish is five miles from downtown New Orleans, and covers approximately 2,000 square miles of an enormously rich wetland ecosystem which leads to open water stretching out to the Chandeleur barrier Islands located in the Gulf of Mexico. St. Bernard is known for its strong family traditions, beautiful landscapes, wildlife, fishing and agriculture. The parish houses a major port facility, a sugar refinery, petrochemical and oil and gas industries as well as seafood processing businesses. Just down the river from New Orleans is the Chalmette National Battlefield, the site of the Battle of New Orleans which effectively ended the War of 1812.
St. Tammany Parish, located on the north shore of Lake Pontchartrain, is Louisiana’s fastest growing parish and contains two major urbanized areas. The City of Covington is the parish seat, and in conjunction with the City of Mandeville comprises one urban area. The City of Slidell, which is the largest city in St. Tammany parish with over 70,000 people, is the other urbanized area. The parish covers approximately 1,125 square miles of which approximately 70% is land. Other municipal areas are Abita Springs, Folsom, Madisonville, Pearl River and Sun. Since the completion of the Causeway Bridge in 1956 (the longest bridge over water in the world), St. Tammany developed into a bedroom community for the New Orleans area south of Lake Pontchartrain. St. Tammany has developed a diverse and independent economy attracting large corporate headquarters and industries while continuing to maintain its pastoral residential character.