While a performance measure itself provides a metric for comparison, a PBPP process requires identification of desired trends (e.g., reduce, increase, maintain) or targets (specific numerical figures) associated with the performance measure in order to provide direction to strategy analysis and performance tracking.
In order to develop a target, it is important to analyze baseline data to understand past trends in performance, as well as conduct analysis of expected performance to account for factors that will affect performance in the future, including levels of available funding. As transportation agencies go through multiple cycles and iterations of planning, the agency will have more information to develop realistic targets.
Desired trends and targets may be set in different ways, across a continuum:
Although there is no right or wrong way to establish targets, there may be value in starting with a directional or aspirational target as overall target for society, recognizing that there are many factors that affect the ability to meet these targets and the role of transportation agencies in this context. Then, when more data are available, realistic targets may be developed. Other considerations in setting targets include whether the target should be: a specific number, a percentage reduction/increase from a baseline (e.g., to 10% below current levels), or set to a particular benchmark (e.g., to national average, to year 2000 levels).
MTC: Considering both Aspirational and Realistic Targets
The Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC) of the San Francisco Bay Area included a set of ambitious targets in its 2035 Transportation Plan, adopted in 2009. These targets were aspirational, and included such targets as: "reduce per capita delay by 20 percent from today by 2035," "achieve an average age for all transit asset types that is no more than 50 percent of their useful life," and "reduce carbon dioxide emissions to 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2035." The Plan is notable for clearly identifying gaps between aspirational targets and expected outcomes as shown in the image below for the carbon dioxide target.
In the subsequent development of Plan Bay Area, MTC worked with the State of California to develop realistic targets in relations to requirements in Senate Bill 375, "The California Sustainable Communities and Climate Protection Act of 2008." These targets call for MTC to demonstrate that its long range plan will reduce per-capita CO2 emissions from cars and light-duty trucks 7% by 2020 and 15% by 2035, compared to 2005 levels.
A target needs to have an associated time-frame associated with it, as the time-frame will help to determine what target level is feasible to achieve. Targets, therefore, may be set in the context of several analysis periods:
Desired trends and targets over the long range time horizon should form a basis for investment decision-making in planning and programming, as it is important to make sure that a program of projects does not focus on near-term improvement at the expense of long range priorities. Just as transportation asset management takes a long-range view of life-cycle costs and risks, targets used in the planning process across all key goal areas should build from those established in the long-range transportation planning process.
SFMTA: Developing Realistic Targets tied to Goals and Objectives
The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency's (SFMTA, also known as "Muni") Strategic Plan outlines clear connections between broad goals, objectives, performance indicators, and specific, time-bound targets. The agency also issues monthly progress reports that provide data on indicators for each target as well as information about what the agency has done to address each goal and related actions.
Source: SFMTA, Strategic Plan: Fiscal Year 2013-Fiscal Year 2018, http://www.sfmta.com/about-sfmta/reports/sfmta-strategic-plan-fy-2013-fy-2018
The challenges associated with setting targets are well known. Specifically, agencies are often hesitant to commit publicly to the achievement of specific targets, especially if the agency has relatively little control over final outcomes. Moreover, there are often concerns both associated with not being able to meet an ambitious target as well as setting a target that appears too low in comparison to broad societal goals. In some cases, performance may not reasonably be expected to improve, and it is problematic to create a target that shows a worsening of conditions. For instance, particularly with limited funding, it may be difficult to achieve significant improvements in asset condition or congestion. In these cases, the analysis of the anticipated condition without the investment in projects to alleviate it should be documented to chart the impact on conditions.
Selecting a target typically involves determining baseline conditions and assessing what may be feasible given resource constraints. Baseline conditions will include past trends and current performance levels, as well as analysis to understand trends and factors that will affect future performance.
Establishing a base line or trend data is rarely as simple as measuring the most recently-available data on selected performance measures. Data should be evaluated over time so that trends or any unusual fluctuations can be identified. In addition, data on external forces should be taken into consideration as well. In evaluating how congestion has changed over the previous decade, for example, it is important to consider factors such as population and employment growth and land use changes.
Depending on the organization's resources, modeling can be conducted to develop a baseline scenario for the future, extrapolating based on current trends or information about expected changes in the future. This modeling can be relatively sophisticated. Using the example of traffic congestion, in most regions, it is likely that congestion will worsen over a 20-30 year time horizon even with investments in multimodal transportation services, infrastructure, and new operational strategies. Having an evidence-based "business as usual" scenario can contextualize outcomes for the general public, providing them with a better understanding of why performance is getting worse relative to the existing baseline conditions.
Given that PBPP is an iterative or cyclical process, performance that is monitored may become the new base line against which results from the next performance cycle are reported.
Target-setting is a multidimensional process that involves various considerations, involving:
There are several ways in which targets can be set:
Within a PBPP process, establishing targets likely should involve some combination, particularly relying on policy priorities, analysis, consensus, and customer feedback. Understanding the available strategies being considered and that could be funded is critical to developing realistic targets. Moreover, it is important to recognize that targets may differ in different regions or for different types of facilities, reflecting the priorities of the community in relation to different performance outcomes, as well as wise investment decision-making from an asset management perspective. For instance, it may not be prudent to have a target for all bridges to be at the same level of structural condition, recognizing the difference between highly traveled connectors and less critical roadways. Moreover, it may not make sense to have the same target for transit service access in all regions.
Targets may evolve over time as additional information is gathered and performance is monitored over time. Several agencies with experience using performance measures and targets have demonstrated refinements over time. The Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC), the MPO for the San Francisco Bay Area, has a performance-based process that has been evolutionary during the development of its last four LRTPs, and refinements over time have contributed to the development of more meaningful targets for the agency. At the state level, Washington State DOT's (WSDOT's) experience also confirms that target-setting requires a history of performance data as well as managerial comprehension and appreciation of the data, which requires time and experience.
Southern California Association of Governments: Using Communication Tools to Visualize Performance Outcomes
Since 1998, the Southern California Association of Governments (SCAG) has based its Regional Transportation Plan (RTP) decisions on performance through measures and targets reflecting changing circumstances and feedback from the public. SCAG's most recent 2012-2035 RTP/Sustainable Communities Strategy (SCS) includes performance measures and target outcomes with respect to the following areas: location efficiency, mobility and accessibility, safety and health, environmental quality, economic well-being, investment effectiveness, and system sustainability. SCAG used innovative public participation techniques to communicate with and engage the public. SCAG produced visuals that depicted four possible scenarios that varied based on development location, neighborhood design, housing options, and transportation investments. SCAG identified how each scenario would impact factors such as land consumption, local infrastructure costs, vehicle miles traveled, fuel consumption, household costs, greenhouse gas emissions, building energy use, water consumption, and public health. All of these factors are related to the performance areas, each of which has several measures that have been refined over time during each of four plan update cycles since 1998.
For more information, see www.scag.ca.gov.