Performance Measurement for Transportation Infrastructure: The Paradigm for Transportation Planning in the 21st Century

Performance Measurement has become the new buzzword for transportation planning in the 21st Century. The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) defines Transportation Performance Measurement as a "strategic approach that uses system information to make investment and policy decisions to achieve national performance goals." Performance measures can be either quantitative, as in Vehicle-Miles Traveled (VMT) per capita, or more qualitative; as in, comfort of the transit vehicle or enhanced transit amenities at stations. Performance measures can also be applied at a variety of scales, including: the entire transportation system, a corridor, and/or even a specific facility. A measure such as CO2 emissions is probably best measured at a systemwide scale or greater, while pavement conditions is probably best measured at the scale of a particular facility. Performance measurement has attained heightened importance as the most recent federal transportation reauthorization bill, "Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century," (MAP-21), is requiring the United States Department of Transportation (USDOT), in consultation with State DOT's, to develop Performance Plans based on specific performance measures and targets for many of its transportation programs, or risk losing funding. In times of fiscal austerity such as these, as well as increased cynicism about the role of government, officials at all levels of government must pay increasing attention to how and where each public dollar is allocated, and what type of performance outcome it generates. Just as shareholders expect good performance from public corporations for which they hold stock, taxpayers are holding decision-makers more accountable for how their funds are getting spent. The best and most expedient method to ascertain this public "Return on Investment" is through Performance Measurement. Following a description of performance measurement and why it's significant, this paper will examine the different types of performance measures being utilized by transportation agencies nationwide. Different agencies may have different measures depending on their goals and missions. Further, different types of infrastructure assets may also have different measures. For example, a transit agency will likely have average daily ridership as a performance measure; and is less likely to have a measure such as volume-to-capacity ratio, which is more likely to be used by highway agencies as it measures road and highway performance. Similarly, a bicycle advocacy group is more likely to be concerned about specific indicators of bicycle level of service (LOS), as opposed to a highway agency that is more likely to be focused on roadway conditions and motor vehicle throughput, (although with the advent of "Complete Streets" principles adopted by many agencies nationwide, performance measures that at one time were exclusive to one mode are being shared by numerous agencies and measures are becoming multi-modal). The paper will conclude with some best practices of performance measures, including those used by DOTs and Metropolitan Planning Organizations (MPOs).


  • English

Media Info

  • Media Type: Digital/other
  • Features: Figures; References; Tables;
  • Pagination: pp 669-681
  • Monograph Title: T&DI Congress 2014: Planes, Trains, and Automobiles

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Filing Info

  • Accession Number: 01528827
  • Record Type: Publication
  • ISBN: 9780784413586
  • Files: TRIS, ASCE
  • Created Date: Jun 26 2014 9:19AM