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Portland Metro Council


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.

Metro is granted authority by the State of Oregon to maintain the region's urban growth boundary (UGB). As such, the Council's planning work integrates both land use and transportation; it also extends to environmental stewardship and municipal service provision, such as regional recycling and solid waste management. Metro produces a variety of reports that reflect a performance-based approach to multi-modal transportation planning, primary among which are the Growth Concept 2040, the Regional Transportation Plan (RTP), and the Metropolitan Transportation Improvement Program (MTIP). Metro has also prepared several reports that reflect a performance measurement approach to other planning and development activities in the region, including the Growth Concept 2040 Performance Measures, Diversity Plan, and State of the Watersheds. In addition, Metro's Office of the Auditor prepares performance audits and associated reports, and conducts oversight of the Council's annual financial statements.


Though Metro has used performance measures since they were first required by the State of Oregon in the early 1990s, the organization is currently in the process of redefining its performance management approach. Starting in 2009, Metro began updating its performance criteria to emphasize a more integrated, outcomes-based approach to performance measurement (see Figure 4 below).

Figure 4. Portland Metro's RTP Performance Measurement System

Figure 4 depicts Portland Metro's Regional Transportation Plan Performance Measurement Process. The process involves 3 steps: 1) Policy plan development and evaluation using collecting and forecasted data 2) Plan implementation using collected and forecasted data 3) Plan monitoring using collected data. Step 3 informs Step 1.

Source: Metro 2035 RTP

Metro's updated approach recognizes that "system performance results from multiple factors, including land use, land supply, cost, availability of capacity, level of transportation options, and demand for travel." This means that regional-level policies and plans cannot achieve intended outcomes alone. As such, Metro calls for close cooperation with local, regional, state and Federal partners, and "careful monitoring" to ensure that "incremental land use decisions and transportation project developments are consistent with the plan vision." Staff acknowledged that inter-agency cooperation and consistent monitoring can be a challenge, but noted that Metro believes that an outcomes-based performance approach will yield important benefits, including:

Metro does not have a formally adopted system for measuring the performance of the planning process itself. Metro does, however, have a Council-adopted Community Outreach Plan that guides all transportation-related public involvement activities and, since 2008, has instituted a set of consistent project management processes as part of its Regional Leadership initiative.

Long Range Planning

Metro's performance-based transportation planning approach is focused on RTP preparation, which is closely linked to the Council's land use planning efforts. For nearly 20 years, all of Metro's RTPs and comprehensive plans have used the goals of the Growth Concept 2040 as their base. The Growth Concept 2040 is a 50-year long range vision plan that was developed through a scenario planning process that engaged thousands of local residents in the early 1990s, and was adopted in 1995.1 Although the Growth Concept does not include performance measures outright, it does identify standards for congestion, air quality, parking ratios, stream corridor setbacks, household, and employment targets and other issues, which Metro then uses as a base for developing specific performance measures in discrete RTPs and comprehensive plans.

Metro is currently engaged in a comprehensive land use and transportation planning process called Making the Greatest Place. As part of this effort, Metro is developing a comprehensive set of integrated transportation and land use performance measures for the first time. The new transportation performance measures have been finalized and are incorporated into the updated 2035 RTP,2 which will serve as the transportation component of the final Making the Greatest Place plan. New performance measures for land use are still under development and will likely be finalized later in 2010.

The 2035 RTP differs from past plans in that it is an "outcomes-based" plan. In the early stages of preparing to update the RTP, Metro worked with its regional partners to define six intended outcomes for the plan:

These six desired outcomes were not only meant to guide planning and decision-making towards final adoption of the RTP, but also to ensure that transportation decisions support a "larger set of responsibilities" in the Portland region, rather than a narrow focus on traffic congestion reduction.

Metro then developed ten overarching goals to integrate land use and transportation in support of the desired 2035 RTP outcomes. Each goal is supported by between two and five specific objectives. Metro also identified ten system performance targets that support the specific goals and objectives of the 2035 RTP. Table 1, below, outlines these targets as they relate to the "3Es" of sustainability, as defined by the 2035 RTP:

Table 5. Metro's 2035 RTP Performance Targets

Three Es Objective Performance Target/SMART Objectives
Economy Safety By 2035, reduce crashes, injuries and fatalities by 50 percent compared to 2005.
Congestion By 2035, reduce vehicle hours of delay per person by 10 percent compared to 2005.
Freight By 2035, reduce vehicle hours of delay truck trip by 10 percent, compared to 2005.
Environment Climate change By 2035, reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 40 percent below 1990 levels.
Active transportation By 2035, triple walking, biking and transit trips compared to 2005.
Clean air By 2035, ensure zero percent population exposure to at-risk levels of air pollution.
Basic Infrastructure By 2035, increase by 50 percent the number of essential destinations accessible within 30 minutes by trails, bicycling, and public transit or within 15 minutes by sidewalks for all residents compared to 2005.
Travel By 2035, reduce vehicle miles traveled per person by 10 percent compared to 2005.
Equity Affordability By 2035, reduce the average household combined cost of housing and transportation by 25 percent compared to 2000.
Access to daily needs By 2035, increase by 50 percent the number of essential destinations accessible within 30 minutes by bicycling and public transit for low-income, minority, senior and disabled populations compared to 2005.

The 2035 RTP also sets performance targets for non-drive-alone travel for the varying community design types that exist in the region, as outlined in the 2040 Growth Concept (see Table 2 below). The non-drive-alone targets are consistent with Metro's RTP performance targets for VMT reduction and are being revised to be consistent with the RTP's targets for GHG reduction.

Table 6. 2035 RTP's Non-Drive-Alone Performance Targets

2040 Growth Concept Design Type Non Drive-Alone Target
Portland central city 60-70%
Regional centers 45-55%
Town centers
Main streets
Station communities
Passenger intermodal facilities
Industrial areas 40-45%
Freight intermodal facilities
Employment areas
Inner neighborhoods
Outer neighborhoods

Metro is using balanced, multimodal performance targets to shift the focus of the RTP away from roadway level-of-service performance towards broader policies and strategies for attaining the vision of the 2040 Growth Concept. Metro believes that the emphasis on broader goals means that RTP implementation "will require a cooperative effort by all jurisdictions responsible for transportation planning in the region," which includes:


Metro prepares a 4-year MTIP every two years. Project selection criteria for allocating funding to projects in the TIP are designed to reflect the performance measures included in the RTP, which are in turn developed in response to standards and outcomes articulated by the 2040 Growth Concept. In this sense, MTIP project selection criteria can be traced back to a land use vision for the region. For example, a proposed project that is located within or that serves a priority growth area (i.e., an area identified for fostering growth in the Growth Concept 2040 and current RTP) would receive more points than a proposed project outside of a target growth area. Once the 2035 RTP update is formally adopted by Metro in June of 2010, TIP selection criteria will be refined to reflect the quantitative performance criteria included in the plan, as well as the qualitative goals of the 2035 RTP and the Making the Greatest Place land use plan.

Historically, MTIP investments were driven by evaluation criteria consistent with the 2040 Growth Concept and RTP measures. In the current round of MTIP allocations, the MPO Board (JPACT) and the Metro Council agreed to a policy split up front, with 25 percent funding toward freight/green economy projects and 75 percent toward active transportation (non-auto) projects. Projects will then be ranked with evaluation criteria that are consistent with the performance measures in the RTP.

Moving forward, Metro plans to strengthen the relationship between planning, programming, project implementation, and post-implementation evaluation of projects by developing a Community Investment Strategy, which will generate new revenues for projects, tie investments to performance, and strengthen post-project evaluations. A recent report by the Metro Auditor praised Metro's TIP project selection process but called for more follow-up evaluation of projects after they have been implemented to better understand the impacts and outcomes of TIP decision-making. Staff explained that Metro only allocates about $35 million of the approximately $500 million total spent on transportation projects in the region each year. As such it has limited capacity to evaluate the TIP overall. However, staff are looking for opportunities to improve system-level monitoring to ensure that Metro funded projects have system-wide, longer-term benefits, as well as project level post-implementation evaluation to ensure that sponsors develop their projects as proposed (and if not, why not, and what the before/after differences are).

Implementation and Reporting

Metro's new outcome-based performance approach calls for the establishment of an on-going evaluation, monitoring, and reporting cycle. To this effect, the Council has identified 14 "system monitoring measures" to help track plan implementation and progress towards realizing the RTP and Growth Concept 2040 vision and goals (see Table 3 below).

Table 7. Metro's System Monitoring Performance Measures

System Monitoring Performance Measures
Vehicle miles traveled (total and per capita) Transit productivity (transit boarding rides per revenue hour) for High Capacity Transit and bus
Average trip length by mobility corridor Percent of regional pedestrian system completed region-wide and by 2040 centers and RTP transit-mixed-use corridor
Motor vehicle and transit travel time between key origin-destinations for mid-day and PM peak Percent of regional bicycle system completed region-wide and by mobility corridor
Congestion - Location of throughways, arterials, and regional freight network facilities that exceed RTP motor vehicle-based level of service thresholds in mid-day and PM peak Number and percent of households and jobs within 30 minutes of central city, regional centers, and key employment/industrial areas for mid-day and PM peak
Travel time reliability on throughways (buffer index - additional time added to ensure on time arrival 95% of the time) Number of fatalities, serious injuries and crashes per capita for all modes of travel region-wide
Average incident duration on throughway system Average household combined cost of housing and transportation
Number and share of average daily shared ride, walking, bicycling and transit trips region wide, by mobility corridor and for the Portland central city and individual regional centers Tons of transportation-related air pollutants (e.g. CO, ozone, and PM-10)

Metro will prepare a system monitoring performance report using these measures every two years, in conjunction with MTIP updates, in order to influence decision-making about how to allocate regional flexible funds. Metro's monitoring report will serve as a "dynamic link between RTP goals and plan implementation by formalizing the process of evaluation and monitoring to ensure that the RTP advances toward achievement of the region's transportation, land use, economic, and environmental goals." The monitoring report will also serve as a "key element" of the region's Congestion Management Process (CMP). It will evaluate the system as a whole with a focus on corridors, examining corridor efficiency by comparing congestion levels, bottlenecks, etc. to system or corridor measures such as average speeds, accidents, transit ridership, etc.

Metro staff noted that it has been a challenge to establish and maintain an ongoing monitoring program in the past, due to the time and expense involved in collecting, maintaining, and managing all the data necessary to do so meaningfully. Advances in intelligent transportation systems in the region have helped to streamline data collection, and the monitoring reports will help to institutionalize and standardize the collection of data even further.


Metro's performance measures approach for transportation and land use planning efforts has evolved with changing needs and conditions since measures were first introduced in the 1990s. Staff reported that the agency's current outcome-based approach is particularly useful given the tightening of financial resources. Councilors and members of the public alike are increasingly concerned about "spending money wisely and in the areas that do the most good." Given that Metro wants to develop a "realistic" plan that can meet multiple objectives in a constrained financial environment, Metro staff expressed a belief that an outcome-based performance approach will (and should) become an increasingly important aspect of the agency's work moving forward.
Metro is actively working to incorporate emerging Federal policy priorities like "livability" and "sustainability" into its outcome-based performance approach. "Vibrant communities" is the first outcome goal of the Metro's 2035 RTP, and the agency will be developing a target for the next RTP update that assesses the region's performance in helping to meet the Kyoto Protocol goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions to 75 percent of 1990 levels by 2050.

Although Metro does not have a formally adopted system for measuring the success of the planning process itself, staff pointed to several items that could be used informally to gauge the success of the planning process. One is to assess whether the RTP and other plans/projects are completed on time and within a reasonable budget. As noted, Metro tracks this information through its internal project management training and objectives program. A second informal measure noted by staff is positive media coverage, which provides anecdotal assessment of success. Lastly, Metro conducts a public opinion survey every few years that provides feedback on how the public perceives the agency itself, as well as regional facilities and infrastructure.

Metro staff noted an important lesson learned from the evolution of the agency's performance measures approach, which is to focus in on selecting the few, most meaningful measures that help to assess overall performance of the plan. When Metro began the 2035 RTP update, staff identified over 100 potential measures to use that supported the goals and objectives of the plan. The data collection for so many measures was cumbersome, and staff found that it was hard to synthesize performance analysis results for overall impacts or prioritize among so many measures in order to develop meaningful weighting to rank projects. Staff reported that Metro wanted "used and useful" measures, but that what they had was "one giant blur." As a result of this lessons learned, Metro decided to focus down on a smaller number of transportation measures that would best serve the specific goals and objectives of the 2035 RTP.

Rather than completely eliminating the remaining non-selected measures, Metro then began a partnership with Portland State University (PSU) to develop a set of broad "triple bottom line" regional indicators (similar to Boston Indicators Project, Twin Cities Compass, and Chicago Regional Indicators Project). The partners have developed the Greater Portland-Vancouver Indicators, intended to track multiple components of overall quality of life, growth, and prosperity in the region (e.g., public safety, education, environment, transportation). The measures and data will be housed at PSU, which Metro staff noted may help to depoliticize decision-making about which measures to select and track region-wide. Eventually, the partnership will develop an interactive web-based regional scorecard that provides data and tracking for a variety of issues at multiple geographic scales. The RTP could represent one scale on the transportation component of the scorecard, and users could click on it to drill down and see local government indicators that relate to the regional vision and goals. Metro believes that the regional indicators partnership with PSU will help to better understand the causes and effects of planning and decision-making on the ground. As such, it will provide another informal metric for ascertaining the "success" of the planning process itself.

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

Observations and Insights

1 Metro is beginning the process of updating the Growth Concept 2040 in 2010. The Council will conduct scenario planning and public outreach for approximately two years, and anticipates that an updated 50-year growth concept will be adopted in three to five years.

2 The 2035 RTP in final public review and scheduled for adoption in June 2010.

Updated: 10/20/2015
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