Performance Based Planning and Programming Guidebook
10. Keys to Success
Performance-based planning and programming builds upon existing transportation planning and programming activities, informed by data, and focused on performance outcomes. While agencies are at various levels of experience in using performance-based approaches to make long range and short range decisions, some key points for moving forward are noted below.
- Measure what matters: Focus on outcomes that are important to the public. It has often been said: measure what is important, do not measure everything. Engage the public and stakeholders early and often in performance-based planning. Goals and objectives that guide decisions in a long range transportation plan should be described in terms of outcomes experienced by users (for example, travel times, reliability, fatalities, etc.), as these are the types of outcomes the public cares about. Rather than adopting simple metrics to assess traffic delay and pavement condition, some organizations have chosen to go beyond and ask questions such as, which types of congestion are most problematic, what types of assets are most critical, etc. Public engagement is critical to identifying the issues that residents care about most, and may involve use of surveys, public meetings, focus groups, or other activities. State DOTs, MPOs, RTPOs, and transit agencies are continually improving their outreach techniques by leveraging existing social media technologies and other online tools, as well as technologies that allow for polling in community meetings.
- Select a limited set of measures: Carefully select a comfortable number of performance measures. Rather than monitoring hundreds of measures, it can be preferable to identify key measures that are "used and useful" to best support goals and guide performance analysis. An agency may start with national measures as well as a few key ones that are important for the community. In selecting performance measures, key questions to ask include:
- Does it represent a key concern?
- Is the measure clear?
- Are data available for calculating the measure?
- Can it be forecasted?
- Does it measure something the agency and its investments can influence?
- Is the measure meaningful for the types of services or area?
- Build on existing performance-based planning processes: Build on already-established performance-based approaches to other federally-required planning activities, such as State Asset Management Plans, State Strategic Highway Safety Plans (SHSPs), MPO Congestion Management Processes (CMPs), Transit Agency Asset Management Plans, Transit Agency Safety Plans, and optional State Freight Plans.
- Consider the big picture and tradeoffs: While a PBPP is intended to be data-driven, recognize that planning cannot be driven solely by performance data and purely quantitative methods. Performance measures are not intended to replace factors such as equity, environmental justice, and quality of life concerns that may be difficult to quantify. Especially in the development of the long-range plan, policy- and decision-makers must consider tradeoffs. Resources should be allocated based on an understanding of performance outcomes, and the public's priority placed on multimodal balance, geographic and political distribution, cultural preservation and environmental justice, natural environment impacts, air quality conformity, and other considerations. Moreover, it is important to focus not only on specific performance indicators, but to consider the long-term investment and asset management context, including factors such as life-cycle costs, risk assessment, and sustainability of solutions. Identifying the ways in which each measure connects back to broad goals and priorities is important for communicating results in a way that is meaningful to community leaders and constituents, who generally discuss issues and concerns with the agency in qualitative terms.
- Coordinate and collaborate across agencies. Coordination is a critical element of PBPP, across many dimensions:
- Across policy, planning, and programming within an agency - to ensure that desired goals and performance focus are consistent across a wide range of program- and subject-specific plans (e.g., safety plans, congestion plans, asset management plans, operations plans) and that the goals, and key measures in the LRTP provide direction to these documents.
- Across transportation agencies - For PBPP to be successful, State DOTs, MPOs, RTPOs, and transit agencies should coordinate in regard to developing goals and objectives, measures, and targets. While unique factors will affect what is important for each context, there should be a common thread of support for common goals across the various transportation plans.
- Across multiple partners and stakeholders - Transportation agency investment decisions affect performance of the transportation system, but so do decisions made by local governments, the freight community, and many other stakeholders. Moreover, broader societal outcomes related to the economy, environment, public health, and accessibility are influenced by a range of forces, and so partnerships are important for achieving desired outcomes.
- Communicate successes and constraints. Communicate performance in terms that are readily understood by the public and decision-makers. Moreover, an important component of reporting is to highlight the constraints (e.g., funding limitations, external factors) that affect performance outcomes. Transportation officials can use reporting data to show the link between funding levels and performance, as well as long-term cost savings of investments to prevent future costly repairs. This is just one example of the ways in which transportation agencies can use data and performance information to guide or influence decision-making, especially when it is controlled by another political entity.
- Tell a story rather than just releasing data. Similarly, releasing performance information and data to the public or other constituencies should be seen as an opportunity for an agency to "tell its story" and provide context for performance outcomes. If performance improved, this is an opportunity for the organization to explain the actions it took that it believes led to this improvement; if performance worsened, it is important to explore the factors that contributed to this outcome and explain them to the public, as well as explaining any actions the agency plans to address it.
- Performance-based planning and programming requires dedicated resources. Tracking performance on a variety of measures, reporting performance, and re-evaluating strategies and targets based on performance information requires dedicated resources, particularly in terms of staff time and data collection and analysis. Agencies interested in implementing a performance-based approach to planning and programming should consider their capacity to devote resources to these activities and identify the level of effort the agency can spend on implementing this approach.
- Consider the role transportation plays in achieving goals in a variety of areas. In many cases, transportation serves as a means to an end rather than just an end in and of itself. Most transportation agencies' missions mention broad goals such as improving the quality of life and enhancing economic opportunities for residents. As such, it can be helpful for transportation officials to keep this in mind in identifying key goal areas and "measuring what matters."