Improving performance measurement in transportation

Performance measurement — more carefully measuring and quantifying the multiple benefits of transportation spending decisions to ensure that every dollar is aligned with the public’s goals and brings the greatest return possible for citizens — is an emerging practice that forward-looking metropolitan areas of all sizes are beginning to use.

The transportation law passed in 2012 (MAP-21) created a nascent system for states and metropolitan planning organizations (MPOs) to measure the performance of their investments against federally-required measures. Some metro areas were doing this for years before MAP-21 passed; others are now trying to determine how to incorporate this new system into their process of creating plans, selecting projects, and measuring the effectiveness of each transportation dollar that gets spent.  The U.S. Department of Transportation is working to finalize a new set of transportation performance measure procedures and regulations — possibly as soon as this year — which we’ve been writing about here regularly.

“It’s never easy to raise money to invest in transportation, and more than ever before, citizens want to know how the decisions are being made to spend their money,” said Transportation for America Director James Corless. “A more accountable system that sets tangible goals with input from the community, chooses transportation projects that will help the community meet those goals, and then measures the outcomes in a feedback loop will be essential to rebuild public confidence in transportation agencies and for ensuring that we get the best bang for the buck going forward,” Corless said.  A training program, created in partnership with the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), will educate these seven teams made up of local business, civic, elected leaders, and transportation professionals, prepare them to act on opportunities within their communities and plug them into a dynamic national network of like-minded leaders throughout the country.  The yearlong academy will consist of in-person workshops with participants from all seven regions — Boston, MA; Cleveland, OH; Des Moines, IA; Indianapolis, IN; Lee County, FL; Seattle, WA; and South Bend, IN — ongoing technical assistance throughout the year, regular online training sessions, and expert analysis of their plans and progress on deploying performance measures.