Adoption of performance measures in regional transportation planning: current practice and lessons for future applications
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Performance measures play an important role in transportation planning, project prioritization and decision-making. Metropolitan Planning Organizations (MPOs) have been tasked by the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century (MAP-21) federal transportation legislation to develop short- and long-term transportation plans that include performance measures. Measures required by legislation are standard, uniform indicators for specific projects and entire metropolitan regions, and lead to MPOs implementing performance analysis serving as evidence of the productive use of taxpayer dollars and providing public accountability. Agencies are in the process of responding to federal rulemaking in implementing and incorporating the required safety, infrastructure, congestion, system reliability, freight, and environmental performance measures. This dissertation research includes a nationwide survey and four urban transportation planning case studies. A survey response of 183 (45%) of the 405 MPOs across the country reveals when agencies began collecting federally mandated performance measures as well as additional non-mandated measures, how performance measures link to regional and state goals and priorities, what factors currently may impede agencies from adopting performance-based planning practices, and where agencies appear to be looking for examples, best practices, and data sharing. Only 12 out of the 183 responding agencies reported using all of the federally required measures. Larger MPOs are generally adopting more measures and introducing them earlier, and agencies located in the Northeast and Western states (where many of the larger regions are located) are generally ahead of regions in the South in implementing performance-based planning. Medium-sized MPOs show no discernible trend in responding to the federal requirements and have not adopted as many additional non-federally mandated performance measures as larger MPOs. Many agencies reported a lack of resources – both monetary and in personnel – contributing to their inability to quickly and efficiently adopt new data-driven practices. Four case studies provide examples of best practices. Case studies reveal the varying levels of coordination between MPOs and state DOTs. Agencies demonstrating best practices in incorporating performance-based planning into their long-range plans in recent years are only now including the methods in short-term Transportation Improvement Programs (TIPs). The survey results and case studies provide the most comprehensive data and research to date of MPO response to the MAP-21 performance measure mandates indicating state of the practice across the country and present best practice models.