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Case Studies Performance-based planning

Eight case studies were developed based on an examination of core planning documents at each transportation agency and structured discussions with transportation planners at those agencies. Four MPO and four DOT candidates with planning practices that demonstrated the integration of performance measures in agency documents (e.g., plans, programs, vision statements) were selected for case studies. They represent varied approaches in diverse geographies that have each established a reputation for the successful application of performance measures to the planning process.


The U.S. Department of Transportation, Research and Innovative Technology Administration, John A. Volpe National Transportation Systems Center, in Cambridge, Massachusetts, prepared these case studies for the Federal Highway Administration's Office of Planning, Environment, and Realty.

The project team also thanks the Metropolitan Planning Organization and State Department of Transportation staff who provided their time, knowledge, and comments in developing this report: Lisa Klein (Metropolitan Transportation Commission); Richard Bickel and Michael Boyer (Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission); Ned Hacker and Wayne Bennion (Wasatch Front Range Council); Michael Hoglund (Metro); Peggy Reichert (Minnesota DOT); David Lee (Florida DOT); John Thomas, Tom Twedt, and Matt Rifkin (Utah DOT); and Daniela Bremmer and Anna Lee (Washington DOT).

Case Studies

The study team developed the case studies based on an examination of core planning documents at each transportation agency and structured discussions with transportation planners at those agencies. The MPOs and DOTs were selected based on review of planning documents, U.S. DOT Certification reports, and consultation with FHWA and U.S. DOT/Volpe Center transportation planners. Candidates for case studies were selected if the planning practices at the State DOT or MPO demonstrated the integration of performance measures in agency documents (e.g., plans, programs, vision statements). The set of State DOTs or MPOs selected represent varied approaches in diverse geographies that have each established a reputation for the successful application of performance measures to the planning process.

Portland Metro Council (Metro)

The Portland Metro Council (Metro) serves as the MPO for the Portland metropolitan region, which covers three counties and 25 cities and is home to approximately 1.5 million residents. Metro is the only directly elected regional government agency in the United States. The president is elected region-wide and councilors are elected from each of 6 regional districts; each serves a four year term. The president presides over the council, sets its policy agenda and appoints all members of Metro's committees, commissions and boards that are otherwise set in Metro's Code.

Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission (DVRPC)

The 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.

Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC)

The MTC serves as the Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) for the San Francisco Bay Area, which covers nine counties and the major cities of San Francisco, San Jose, and Oakland. MTC's work is governed by a nineteen-member policy board comprised of local elected officials, and representatives of regional and state agencies.

Wasatch Front Regional Council (WFRC)

The WFRC serves as the MPO for 60 cities and 5 counties in the greater Salt Lake City region. WFRC's work is governed by a 25-member board comprised of local elected officials, and representatives of regional and state agencies.

Florida Department of Transportation

The Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) is a decentralized state agency organized into seven districts, the Florida Turnpike Enterprise and the Florida Rail Enterprise. FDOT employs over 7,400 employees statewide and is responsible for a $6.5 billion annual budget and a $33.8 billion five-year work program. FDOT coordinates its planning with the 26 MPOs operating in Florida and various state and local government agencies. Oversight of FDOT is provided by the Florida Transportation Commission, which reviews major transportation policy initiatives, the FDOT Work Program, and FDOT's operational and financial performance.

Minnesota Department of Transportation (Mn/DOT)

Mn/DOT's Office of Investment Management is responsible for both planning investments and managing performance measures. The Office develops plans and performance reports that reflect a performance-based approach to planning and investment management. This includes the Statewide Multi-Modal Transportation Plan, the 20-year Statewide Highway Investment Plan, and the Annual Transportation Performance Report. Other Specialty Offices at Mn/DOT produce additional performance-based plans and reports such as the Strategic Highway Safety Plan, the annual Metropolitan Freeway System Congestion Report, the Mn/DOT Pavement Management Report, and the Minnesota Statewide Bridge Inspection Report.

Utah Department Of Transportation (UDOT)

The Utah Department of Transportation (UDOT) has developed a robust GIS-based analytic database to support performance-based investment decisions by modeling scenarios for the Utah Statewide Transportation Plan. Over the course of the past three years, UDOT has developed a repository for GIS data with various query and analytic tools that contains thousands of layers of GIS data. This database allows UDOT planners, and other stakeholders to model the impacts of planned roads on the environment, travel demand, safety and other factors. To assess various investment scenarios, UDOT developed five categories of performance measures: Safety, Congestion, Economy, Environment, and Asset Management.

Washington State Department of Transportation

Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) is regarded as a leader in the use of performance measures for reporting and planning. In Washington, data collection and analysis of transportation system performance was first legislatively mandated in 1990, when WSDOT was directed to perform a "Programming and Prioritization Study" to evaluate the agency's programming process. Since that time WSDOT has made significant investments in data collection and analysis to support programming decisions. In 2002, WSDOT began to apply performance-based approaches to its public outreach and strategic communications.

State and Metropolitan Plans Analyses

This section touches briefly on two other transportation planning research projects the Volpe Center is conducting for the FHWA Office of Planning: 1) a review of the Statewide Long Range Transportation Plans (STPs) for all 50 states and the District of Columbia, including analysis in the form of a series of synthesis topics that includes performance-based planning; 2) seven case studies of the role of Metropolitan Long Range Plans (MTPs), with analysis of several major planning topics including the application of performance measures. Along with the case studies in this white paper, early findings from these studies contribute to an understanding of the state of practice in use of performance measures in Statewide and metropolitan planning, as well as providing a helpful point of reference for the findings and recommendations in this report.

State Plans Analysis

In the review of the STPs, the Volpe Center study team has observed widespread application of performance measures. Of the 51 plans reviewed, 28 include performance measures and an additional 13 plans recommend next steps to develop future performance measures.

Of these 28 plans, all use performance measures to analyze the performance of the transportation system, typically focusing on outcome measures in the following categories: 1) modal within system (e.g., congested freeway miles); 2) environmental (e.g., GHG emissions); 3) infrastructure (e.g., pavement condition); or safety (e.g., fatality rates). Table 21 provides examples.

Table 21. Example Outcome Measures

Safety Number of fatalities West Virginia
Mobility Travel time within key regional travel corridors California
Condition Percent of bridges in at least "fair" structural condition Washington
Economic Number of jobs supported by department expenditures Michigan
Environment Transportation-related GHG emissions Maryland

A sub-set of the 28 plans also use performance measures to evaluate organizational performance.

Table 22. Example Organizational Performance Measures

Accountability Percentage of departmental action plan items complete Delaware
Process Percentage of employees trained in accordance with prescribed training plan Nevada
Project delivery Percent of STIP projects let by the end of the fourth year. Minnesota
Financial stewardship Limits for project cost overruns Rhode Island

Other DOTs use performance measures to measure success in achieving the plan's goals, for example:

Metropolitan Transportation Plans

The Volpe Center's research on Metropolitan Transportation Plans (MTPs) produced by MPOs focuses on seven examples of successful practices. The hypothesis of the research is that MTPs are key to the success of metropolitan transportation planning processes, and offer valuable insights into these processes. This research selected a different group of MPOs and their MTPs than are usually the subject of other national best practices study. The intent is to gain insights from a different group of planning agencies - large agencies that are less well known or agencies serving mid-sized or smaller metropolitan areas that may be more representative of national practice than are the large MPOs featured in the white paper case studies.
Early observations from the MTP study indicate progress and interest in performance-based planning:

Summary from STP and MTP Studies

The above early observations expand the understanding of state of practice in the use of performance measures by State DOTs and MPOs. The STP study confirms that performance measures play a significant role in over half of the STPs and that over 80% of all STPs either include performance measures or indicate plans to incorporate them in the future. STPS use outcome measures to analyze system performance, to monitor whether goals and objectives are being met, and to assess organizational performance. Although the case study agencies in this white paper indicated that they did not formally monitor the success of the planning process itself, they indicated that they do assess progress against goals and organizational performance. The STP reviews indicate a consistent approach to performance measures.

MTP observations also indicate a strong interest in performance measures among a group of smaller and less-studied MPOs. The MPOs examined in existing research are moving ahead quickly to develop applications of performance measures, although many are at early stages. There also appears to be support for Federal steps to encourage further advancement in the use of performance measures.

These case studies illustrate diverse attempts at performance based planning. For more information, please contact Egan Smith at

Updated: 9/15/2011
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