Regional Workshop on Performance-based Planning and Programming - Workshop Summary
3. Key Workshop Themes
Facilitators engaged workshop attendees in a broad ranging
discussion of the challenges and opportunities presented by performance based
planning approaches. Following large group discussion, smaller breakout
sessions provided participants the opportunity to further identify significant
issues and to share lessons learned. The following major themes emerged from
Many Agencies are Using Performance Measures Today
One overriding finding from the workshop was that most agencies
are using performance measures within their planning process in one form or
another. Most of the state DOTs were focused on asset management, while most
of the MPOs had a focus on congestion management. Participants generally felt
that they had a basis from which to build. A number of participants observed
that they are trying to put transportation goals and objectives, and
performance, into a broader context that also recognizes broader economic,
social and environmental goals.
Challenges to Implementation Remain
Overall, participants recognized performance-based
planning and programming as good management practice, but noted that additional
guidance is needed to really implement it as a day-to-day practice of most
transportation agencies. Participants identified a range of potential
challenges to implementing performance-based planning and programming,
- Identifying measures.Participants acknowledged that
defining clear and useful measures is easier for some performance areas than
for others. Traditional measures of highway or bridge performance are
relatively well established, while non-traditional areas such as livability or
sustainability or broad social and economic consideration can be quite
difficult to assign measures to. These themes are often examined in long-range
planning approaches, but many organizations have less experience doing so from a
performance based planning perspective. Building consensus among stakeholders
around common measures was also considered important but sometimes difficult to
- Recognize differences. Attendees pointed to the need to
consider rural and urban areas differently in several contexts. Primarily,
national target setting processes must recognize the unique nature and needs of
systems in urban and rural areas. Secondly, organizations and transit providers
in predominantly rural areas face greater resource and technical capacity
limitations implementing and managing performance measure systems. Finally,
performance measures must be selected that work for both urban and rural areas
so as not to penalize smaller systems or rural roadways.
- Linking planning and programming. Several participants
noted existing disconnects in their own organizations between current
measurement practices and decision making processes, while others noted the
potential for enhanced measurement to close those gaps. To make a real
connection, criteria will have to be developed to map state and national goals
to performance measures that are used in state and regional selection processes.
While political involvement in project selection is unlikely to disappear, performance
measurement may make the implications of political choices more clear. Measures
must be identified that can make a difference and impact key areas within the
timeframe of a STIP – as elected officials and decision makers need to know
that the decisions they made and projects they prioritized are making a
- Communication is critical. Performance measures alone may
not be effective tools unless they and their purpose are communicated to
leadership and the public. Attendees noted that public relations component of
performance measurement was often overlooked or undervalued. Measures can be helpful
in educating the public and informing decision makers, and when integrated with
social media or new technologies can help improve engagement and involvement in
planning processes. Performance measures when communicated effectively help
make tradeoffs and choices very clear to stakeholders.
- Overcoming technical complexities. Many organizations
noted that they face technical challenges collecting and managing data. Common data
concerns included the availability of data at different geographic scales, developing
consistent trend datasets, the validity and integrity of public and private
data, and the use of qualitative and quantitative sources. Common management
concerns expressed included difficulties changing internal agency culture,
integrating multiple existing data systems, and working with new technologies
to compile and report measures. It was noted that expanded technical assistance
in data management areas may be necessary to ease implementation efforts.
- Evaluating tradeoffs.Participants recognized that performance
based planning processes will increasingly emphasize resource allocation
decisions that involve tradeoffs between various program areas, such as
preservation, safety, mobility, and others.Â Investment in one area may affect
performance in another or an investment in one program area may impact multiple
performance goals. Similarly, understanding among staff and leaders that
national performance measures will not be the only measures used by state and
regional entities to aid decision making and investment allocations will also
be helpful when making resource decisions.
Establishing a National Program
Workshop attendees were cautiously optimistic about the
rulemaking outcomes and eventual implementation of the performance-based
planning approach embedded within MAP-21. Several key points were raised on the
forthcoming national program, including:
- Rulemaking must be transparent, open, and provide opportunities
for input and feedback.
- Implementation must be consistent across the country and
interpreted similarly by FHWA divisions.
- Approach should not place undue constraints on local priorities
- National measures should result in meaningful outcomes and the
national vision and purpose of the program should be communicated.
- National measures could mesh or support existing performance
management efforts already occurring at the state or local level to the extent
- Expand technical assistance efforts to aid organizations in developing
consistent, valid, and comparable data collection and management systems.
- Participants offered input and ideas for a successful
national program. Some of these ideas included:
- Ask for input. Participants observed that the details of a
national performance management program will be established primarily through
the agency rulemaking process, currently in progress. This process should
provide opportunities for input and feedback from all stakeholders.
- Learn from others.Suggestions were made that existing
lessons learned and the cautions and challenges raised in this workshop should
be taken into account when designing the national approach.
- Be flexible.There are aspects of MAP-21 that will likely
have to be prescriptive, but other areas may offer broad guidance to enable
states and stakeholders to implement and pursue within their own framework. If a
clear and consistent vision is established at the national level, it can still allow
individual states and regions to determine appropriate measures, targets, and
planning approaches to address regional and local priorities. Participants
noted that if federal goals are too loosely defined, then federal performance
reporting is likely to be too general to be of value.
- Provide support.Attendees did express concerns with the
technical complexities of data collection and management. It was noted that
while areas such as bridge and pavement performance measurement were well
developed and supported by tools and common measures, other areas such as
safety, freight, and economic vitality measurement techniques may benefit from
additional technical assistance.