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Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission

Introduction

The Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission (DVRPC) serves as the MPO for the Greater Philadelphia metropolitan region, which covers nine counties and parts of two states - Pennsylvania and New Jersey. DVRPC's work is governed by an eighteen-member policy board comprised of local elected officials, and representatives of state agencies from both Pennsylvania and New Jersey.

DVRPC's planning work includes not only transportation, but land use, environmental protection and economic development for the Philadelphia region. The Commission produces a variety of reports that reflect a performance-based approach to multi-modal transportation planning, primary among which are the Regional Transportation Plan (RTP) and the Transportation Improvement Program (TIP). Since 1998, DVRPC has also periodically prepared "Tracking Progress" reports, which monitor progress towards achieving RTP goals and objectives along a series of regional indicators. A "Rating the Region" report, conducted in 2007, also looks at how the Philadelphia region compares to 12 other major metropolitan regions in the U.S. on a range of indicators related to the human environment, economy, built and natural environment, transportation, and civic environment.

Approach

DVRPC has developed a fully integrated, performance-based, multi-modal transportation planning process that links scenario planning, visioning, planning, programming, and monitoring. Performance measures are used to evaluate projects for the RTP. Performance indicators are used to communicate costs and benefits of alternatives and scenarios to the public, as well as to track progress towards meeting RTP goals.

DVRPC conducts both transportation planning and comprehensive land use planning for the Philadelphia region. As such, it uses both transportation and non-transportation measures to assess regional performance. Staff reported that the link between transportation and non-transportation measures is close due to DVRPC's long history of both transportation and land use planning, and noted that the Commission intends to make the links even closer moving forward. The goal is to develop a performance-based multimodal planning approach in which community livability, economic development, and environmental sustainability goals actually "drive" future transportation investments and decision-making.

Although DVRPC integrates a performance-based approach throughout the transportation planning cycle, it does not formally evaluate the success of the planning process itself.

Long Range Planning

DVRPC's performance-based planning approach is focused on RTP preparation and monitoring. DVRPC's current RTP, Connections - The Regional Plan for a Sustainable Future (adopted in July 2009), serves as both an RTP and regional comprehensive plan. It provides a framework for developing regional policies and making investment decisions that integrate transportation, land use, environmental preservation, and economic development activities region-wide.

Performance measures and indicators are incorporated into three primary stages of DVRPC's long-range planning process:

  1. Developing a vision for regional growth through scenario-based alternatives analysis and public engagement;
  2. Consulting past "Tracking Progress" reports to establish future planning principals and priorities; and
  3. Selecting which regionally "transformative" projects to include in the long-range plan.

DVRPC's first stage in developing Connections was to conduct a scenario-based planning exercise in order to present the public with alternative growth patterns, gather input from diverse stakeholders, and develop a shared vision to guide future regional growth and decision-making.

DVRPC used a range of performance indicators, including greenhouse gas emissions and vehicle miles travelled (VMT) to measure the impacts of three alternative development scenarios on the region, designated as Recentralization, Sprawl, Trend. The Commission then developed visual tools to help communicate the performance results to the public and gather input at workshops in each of the planning region's nine counties (see Figure 5 below).

Figure 5. DVRPC's Comparison of Alternative Scenario Performance

Figure 5 is a spider chart that visually depicts how DVRPC's three alternative scenarios fare, relative to one another, on 12 different criteria. The criteria are: decrease vehicle miles of travel, decrease vehicle crashes, decrease vehicle hours of delay, increase transit ridership, increase walking and biking trips, decrease CO2 emissions, preserve open space, increase regional household density, more jobs and households with transit access, more jobs in environmental justice communities, reduce household energy and auto costs, decrease supportive infrastructure costs. The spider chart shows that the "Recentralization" trend scenario has "better" performance across all 12 criteria, the "Sprawl" trend performs "worse" across all 12, and the "Trend" trend performs somewhere between the other two.

Source: DVRPC

Based on input provided at the public workshops, DVRPC focused on the "Recentralization" scenario as a preferred development pattern, augmented by focused development outside core cities in areas with existing or planned water and sewer service and proximity to the regional transportation network.

The second stage in DVRPC's performance analysis of the long-range plan involved analyzing past performance outcomes to better understand opportunities for improvement moving forward. DVRPC's Tracking Progress Towards 2030 analysis had been published in June 2008. It measured regional performance against 27 indicators and five goal areas articulated in the region's prior long-range plan, Destination 2030.The analysis revealed that the region was not performing as well as it had hoped to in several key areas:

By looking at the gaps between Destination 2030 goals and implementation outcomes, DVRPC identified areas that called for greater attention and focus moving forward with Connections. The Commission used the Tracking Progress analysis in combination with the results of an online survey with the public to develop four key planning principles around which to organize goals and objectives for Connections:

Before looking at individual projects for selection, DVRPC conducted an in-depth needs assessment with DOTs and transit operators to determine what kinds of investments would be needed over 25 years to bring the system up to a "state of good repair." In light of a $45 billion funding gap between needs and anticipated revenues, DVRPC worked with a technical advisory committee to first allocate RTP resources across broad categories of need, rather than to individual projects themselves. The final RTP funding allocation agreed to by the advisory committee reflects the maturity of Philadelphia's system, and focuses heavily on maintaining existing infrastructure:

DVRPC the used selection criteria to evaluate 50 individual "regionally transformative" new highway capacity and fixed guideway transit projects for inclusion in the plan (see Table 1 below).

Table 8. Selection Criteria for Evaluating Regionally "Transformative" Investments for Inclusion in Connections 2035

New Highway Capacity Projects New Fixed Guideway Transit Projects
Serving a regional center (had to be located on DVRPC's strategic land use development map) Serving an area with requisite density
Level of environmental impact (DVRPC used 10 criteria to ascertain environmental impacts) Addressing social equity
Location along a Congestion Management Plan (CMP) corridor Level of environmental impact
Being an Intermodal National Highway System (NHS) or NHS Connector Project capital cost per passenger
Cost per vehicle mile Project status (how far along in the design, environmental review, development process is it?)
Level of public support Level of county/operating agency support
Relevant qualitative factors

Programming

DVRPC updates a 4-year TIP every year for the New Jersey portion of its planning region and every two years for the Pennsylvania portion of the region.

The use of performance measures is not explicit in the TIP, but TIP decision-making flows directly from the RTP, which is fiscally constrained and subjected to three levels of performance analysis. For example, funding levels in the TIP mirror funding levels in the RTP and individual project selection responds to an in-depth needs assessment. Due to various fiscal factors (e.g., the economic downturn, prices of commodities) the TIP has not added any new significant capacity projects in recent years beyond what is already in the pipeline. The RTP identifies such projects and feeds them into the TIP. The plan calls for no additional new highway capacity projects beyond what is already underway in the current TIP (whether in planning, right-of-way, or construction). The TIP and the RTP are linked to track spending in the various funding categories.

Moving forward, staff noted that DVRPC plans to tighten the connection between performance measures in the RTP and TIP and make them more explicit.

Reporting

DVRPC has used regional indicators to conduct performance monitoring since 1998. For each update to the RTP, DVRPC staff prepares a "Tracking Progress" report, which DVRPC sees as a "critical component in assessing the implementation of the long-range plan." The main purpose of the Tracking Progress reports is to assess whether or not the goals of each RTP are being met. To do so, DVRPC identifies between four and eight tracking questions and corresponding performance indicators for each RTP goal and then conducts a performance analysis. Results feed back into subsequent RTP updates and are used to refine or develop new performance measures for future analysis. Because DVRPC's long-range plan functions as both an RTP and a comprehensive plan, regional performance is assessed not only in terms of transportation outcomes, but also growth management, urban revitalization, the environment, and economic development.

DVRPC strives to identify performance indicators that are both "meaningful and practical." Potential performance indicators are developed through a literature review and extensive interdepartmental discussion, and selected based on how well they conform to the following criteria:

For DVRPC's most recent performance report, Tracking Progress Towards 2030, staff identified 27 indicators that supported the five goal areas of the Destination 2030 plan (see Table 9 below). Because DVRPC's long-range plan serves as an RTP and a comprehensive plan, goals and indicators span both transportation and non-transportation issues. The Tracking Progress report clearly articulates RTP goal areas, tracking questions, indicators, time cycle, and data sources in order to increase public awareness and understanding of what indicators are being used to gauge regional performance, how, and why.

Table 9. Regional Indicators and Data Sources to Track Progress Towards Destination 2030 Goals

Destination 2030 Goal Area Performance Tracking Question Regional Performance Indicator Time Cycle Data Source
Growth Management Are land development / consumption slowing? Developed acres by Planning Area 5 Years DVRPC Land Use Files (1990, 2000 & 2005) and DVRPC Destination 2030 Land Use Plan
Did growth occur in appropriate areas (existing development or future growth areas) or inappropriate areas (Greenspace Network and Rural Conservation Lands) as designated by the Long Range Plan? Number of acres developed compared to the Long Range Plan's Land Use Plan 5 Years DVRPC Land Use Files (2000 & 2005) and
DVRPC Destination 2030 Land Use Plan
How much land does each person in the region consume? Developed acres per person by Planning Area 5 Years DVRPC Land Use Files (1990, 2000 & 2005),
DVRPC Destination 2030 Planning Areas, and US Census / American Community Survey
Does our development pattern support expanded transit options? Percentage of the region's population living in geographic area in the top two Transit Score classes over time 10 Years US Census / American Community Survey, and DVRPC Transit Score
Number of Destination 2030 Land Use Development Centers (as designated in the Long Range Plan) that increase in Transit Score class over time 10 Years US Census / American Community Survey,
DVRPC Transit Score, and Long Range Plan
Urban Revitalization Is the population of the region's Core Cities and Developed Communities increasing? Population by Destination 2030 Planning Area Annual US Census Population
Estimates Program
Is employment in the region's Core Cities and Developed Communities increasing? Employment by Destination 2030 Planning Area 5 Years DVRPC Municipal-Level Employment Estimates
Has residential construction activity increased in the region's Core Cities and Develop Communities? Residential building permits issued by Destination 2030 Planning Area Annual U.S. Census Bureau Construction Statistics Divisions
Has mortgage lending activity for both home purchases and home improvements increased in the region's Core Cities and Developed Communities? Number and value of mortgages originated by Destination 2030 Planning Area Annual Home Mortgage Disclosure Act Raw Data Files
Have the tax bases of the region's Core Cities and Developed Communities increased? Tax base per capita in Core Cities and Developed Communities Annual PA State Tax Equalization Board and NJ Department of Treasury
Environment Have privately protected lands increased? Acres of preserved farmland, acres of protected land trust lands Two years DVRPC Protected Lands Inventory
Have acres of public open space increased? Acres of Federal, state, county, and municipal park / open space / conservation land holdings Two years DVRPC Protected Lands Inventory
Has surface water quality improved? Percentage monitored water bodies impaired for aquatic health Two years NJDEP & PADEP 2002, 2004, & 2006
Have we reduced air pollution? Number of days region exceeded the National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) for ground level ozone and PM 2.5 Annual EPA
Has the region's tree cover increased or decreased?Has the region's heavy tree canopy (the most beneficial type) increased? Acres of tree cover Variable
1993, 2000
American Forests, Inc.
Are recreation and open space areas accessible to disadvantaged population groups? Percent of Census tracts with 5 Degrees of Disadvantage (DOD) within ¼ mile of public open space or recreation facility Variable DVRPC Degrees of Disadvantage, DVRPC Open Space Inventory file, DVRPC Land Use file (2000)
Economic Development How has the number of jobs in the DVRPC region changed? How does this compare to national job growth? Number of jobs in the DVRPC Region Annual Bureau of Labor Statistics
How has the average annual pay in the DVRPC region changed?How does this compare to national growth in average annual pay? Average annual pay Annual Bureau of Labor Statistics
Is the workforce becoming more educated?How does our region compare to the nation? Percentage of population aged 25 and over with associate's, bachelor's, and graduate or professional degrees Annual US Census / American Community Survey
How has the percentage of households with housing costs greater than 35% of income changed? Percentage of households spending more than 35% of income on housing costs 5 Years American Community Survey
Transportation Have vehicle crashes and fatalities declined? Fatality rate (fatalities per million vehicle miles traveled) and crash rate (crashes per million vehicle miles traveled), including crashesbetween vehicles and pedestrians / bicycles Annual NJDOT and PennDOT Bureau of Highway Safety & Traffic Engineering
Is congestion getting worse? Percentage of annual traffic count locations throughout the region that are congested (Volume / Capacity ratio greater than or equal to 0.85) Annual NJDOT, PennDOT, DVRPC count program and Congestion Management Process (CMP)
Is transit ridership increasing? Annual Unlinked Passenger Trips Annual National Transit Database, details from SEPTA, NJ Transit, & PATCO
Has the number of deficient bridges in need of rehabilitation or replacement decreased? Number of deficient bridges 5-Year PennDOT, NJDOT
Are roads better maintained? Lane miles of roadway identified as deficient from the pavement inventory 5-Year PennDOT, NJDOT
Are fewer people driving to work alone? Commute mode share 5-Year US Census / American Community Survey
Are people driving less? Vehicle Miles Traveled (VMT) Annual NJDOT, PennDOT, US Census / American Community Survey
Are DVRPC's TIP investments in keeping with the LRP goals? Percentage and dollar amount of TIP funding located in "existing development" and "future growth areas" as designated in the Long Range Plan 4-Year DVRPC Transportation Improvement Program (TIP)

DVRPC uses the Tracking Progress reports not only as a tool to improve regional-decision making within the MPO planning process, but also as a tool for greater public engagement and communication about regional performance. The reports are laid out with colorful, engaging graphics and easy-to-understand visual cues, such as "dashboard" indicators, to make findings clear and easy to understand for members of the public (see Figure 6 below).

Figure 6. DVRPC'S Visual Representation of Transportation Indicators in Tracking Progress Towards 2030

What We Track How is the DVRPC Region Performing? Trend
TR 1: Have vehicle crashes and fatalities declined? Between 2001 and 2005, the DVRPC region experienced an 18% decrease in fatalities per million VMT and less than 1% decrease in all crashes per million VMT. However, the overall number of crashes rose by 4.6% during this same time period. Region has medium performance on reducing vehicle crashes and fatalities.
TR 2: is congestion getting worse? Congestion appears to be stable - neither improving nor worsening, though VMT has increased. Region has relatively good performance on stabilizing traffic congestion.
TR 3: Is transit ridership increasing? While transit ridership has experienced some fluctuation, it has increased in the last 5 years. Region has very good performance on increasing transit ridership.
TR 4: Has the number of deficient bridges in need of rehabilitation or replacement decreased? The number of bridges identified as structurally deficient in the DVRPC region has remained steady, but remains twice as high as the acceptable level set by FHWA in its current strategic plan. Region has very poor performance on the number of deficient bridges in need of rehabilitation or replacement.
TR 5: Are roads better maintained? The region saw a slight increase in road miles considered to be deficient, mostly due to NJDOT's stricter standards. Region has relatively poor performance in the region in keeping up with road maintenance needs.
TR 6: Are fewer people driving to work alone? The number of people driving to work by themselves continues to increase and is now 73% of all commuters. Region has very poor performance on the number of people who drive to work alone (it's increasing).
TR 7: Are people driving less? There are more cars and more drivers driving more miles every year in the region. The region appears to be more auto-dependant. Region has very poor performance on whether people are driving less (there are more drivers and more vehicle miles traveled).
TR 8: Are DVRPC's TIP investments in keeping with LRP goals? Approximately 97% of the mapped 2007-2010 TIP project funding supports the Long Range Plan and its stated goals. Region has very good performance on how well DVRPC's TIP investments support goals in the LRP.

DVRPC staff noted that the Tracking Progress reports are an important communication tool to engage the public, local elected officials, and the DVRPC board and build regional consensus for a shared vision of future growth and development in the region. Findings from the Tracking Progress reports are used directly to develop the vision and goals for RTP updates. For example, Tracking Progress Towards 2030 found that the region was not performing as well as it had hoped to in maintaining transportation infrastructure and preserving open space, so those became key goals of Connections. Three of the four goals in Connections were developed in direct response to the findings of Tracking Progress Towards 2030.

Connections was adopted in July 2009 and work on Tracking Progress Towards 2035 will begin during the summer of 2010. DVRPC will develop new indicators to reflect the specific goals and objectives of the Connections plan, as opposed to Destination 2030, including innovative measures such as greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and local food production/distribution.

Discussion

DVRPC has been using performance measures since the late 1990s. Prior to that, the Commission prepared a plan and made recommendations for how to implement it, but did not track progress to see what resulted from the plan. DVRPC staff reported that performance measures have become fully integrated in the last decade and are now a critical piece of the agency's work. Though initial use of performance measures responded to Federal guidance, DVRPC staff reported that the Commission would continue to use performance measures today even without Federal guidance because the agency has seen how valuable they are in order to facilitate board decision-making, communicate with the public, and gain buy-in from stakeholders and elected officials. For example, residents and decision-makers in some communities were worried about the traffic impacts of proposed transit-oriented development (TOD) projects in their communities. By tracking the outcomes of implemented TOD projects, DVRPC has been able to demonstrate the value of these kinds of investments and successfully advocate for more TOD projects in subsequent plans. For these reasons, staff reported that it is likely that the importance of performance measures for DVRPC's regional planning work will only grow with time.

The biggest challenge to effective performance measurement noted by DVRPC staff is "finding new, more meaningful and appropriate methodologies to reflect both the quantitative and qualitative costs and benefits of projects in diverse communities" that comprise the Philadelphia region. "Livability" is a good example of how multiple indicators may need to be designed to measure performance towards a single goal, since the term "livability" can mean very different things from one community to another. DVRPC has already developed measures to evaluate livability through efforts such as its Transportation and Community Development Program, which provides grant funding for planning efforts and discrete projects with community livability benefits. Moving forward, however, the Commission will work to refine existing livability measures and add new quantitative and qualitative indicators to assess performance on community livability, including GHG emissions, local food production/distribution, and location of affordable housing near transit.

DVRPC staff provided feedback, recommendations, and requests regarding national performance measures:

Observations and Insights

Updated: 10/23/2014
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