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Performance Based Planning and Programming Guidebook

1. Purpose and Overview

The motivation to implement performance-based approaches in transportation decision-making is substantial. Greater competition for limited funding, a need to strategically focus investments, and heightened demand for public sector accountability and transparency are prominent features of transportation planning and programming today. These trends underscore the need to achieve desired transportation system outcomes in the most cost effective way.

Performance-based planning and programming (PBPP) refers to the application of performance management principles within the planning and programming processes of transportation agencies to achieve desired performance outcomes for the multimodal transportation system. PBPP attempts to ensure that transportation investment decisions are made - both in long-term planning and short-term programming of projects - based on their ability to meet established goals for improving the overall transportation system. Furthermore, it involves measuring progress toward meeting goals, and using information on past and anticipated future performance trends to inform investment decisions.

PBPP is inherently data-driven, and widely considered to be a best practice in the transportation industry. Implementation of PBPP can vary based on a region's size, geography, level and type of development, and the political context. State departments of transportation (State DOTs), Metropolitan Planning Organizations (MPOs), non-metropolitan planning organizations (known as Regional Transportation Planning Organizations/RTPOs, or Rural Planning Organizations/RPOs), transit agencies, local governments, and other partners that are involved in transportation decision-making can use a PBPP approach, which benefits from coordination among agencies. Though the scale of activities for these agencies and federal planning requirements differ, this Guidebook identifies PBPP elements that are common to all while highlighting examples of approaches that apply to different types of agencies involved in metropolitan and statewide and non-metropolitan transportation planning and programming.

The Guidebook has been designed to help State DOTs, MPOs, RTPOs, transit agencies, and other partner organizations understand:

The Guidebook builds on existing PBPP resources and tools, including a white paper and a series of workshop discussions that FHWA and FTA have sponsored to encourage dialogue among the transportation community (see

Building on Existing Practices

PBPP builds on the concept of "performance management," a strategic approach that uses data to support decisions that help to achieve performance goals. For the past several decades, transportation agencies have been transitioning toward performance-based approaches to support decision-making. The Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act (ISTEA) of 1991 emphasized multimodal solutions, public involvement, and flexibility in transportation funding; and required states to develop a series of management systems addressing asset conditions (pavement, bridges, public transportation and equipment) and efficient system performance (safety, congestion management, and intermodal connections). While most of these management system requirements were subsequently made voluntary, many states and regions continued using data to monitor transportation system conditions and performance, using this information to support investment decision-making.

Since that time, basic performance measures used by some State DOTs have evolved into sophisticated agency-wide strategic performance management initiatives that are credited with helping many DOTs meet challenges such as managing scarce financial resources more effectively, focusing staff on leadership priorities, and providing greater accountability to the public. Almost every state uses strategic planning in some form, and all State DOTs use performance measures at various programmatic levels.[1] Many, if not most, MPOs, transit agencies, and other transportation agencies also collect data that are used to support decision-making.

Moreover, many states are implementing transportation asset management (TAM) -- a strategic and systematic process of operating, maintaining, upgrading, and expanding physical assets effectively through their life cycle. TAM supports a strategic resource allocation process that uses a performance-based approach, with the objective of better decisionmaking based upon quality information and well-defined objectives.[2] States are also required to use a performance-based process through their data-driven development of Strategic Highway Safety Plans (SHSPs), which involve tracking safety indicators, analyzing data, and identifying emphasis areas and strategies. Each state's Highway Safety Improvement Program (HSIP) should be consistent with the SHSP, and includes collecting and maintaining data, conducting studies, establishing priorities, and implementing and evaluating the effectiveness of safety improvements.[3]

Most MPOs conduct travel demand modeling and have used performance measures to evaluate plan alternatives through model forecasts. MPOs in areas with populations greater than 200,000, Transportation Management Areas (TMAs), are also required to have a performance-based Congestion Management Process (CMP), which requires identification of congestion objectives, selection of performance metrics, monitoring of system performance, analysis and selection of strategies, and evaluation of effectiveness.[4] Meanwhile transit agencies receiving funds from the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) also track ridership, vehicle age, and other metrics as part of their reporting to the National Transit Database (NTD).[5] Some transit agencies are using performance information, such as ridership and on-time performance, to support operational and capital programming decisions.

Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century (MAP-21), signed into law in 2012, places increased emphasis on performance management within the Federal-aid highway program, including development of national performance measures to be used by State DOTs and MPOs in setting targets.[6] It also emphasizes performance management within the Federal transit program, including development of national performance measures in relation to state of good repair and safety, which are to be used by transit agencies in setting targets.[7]

The law specifically calls for the use of performance-based decision-making within metropolitan transportation planning and statewide and nonmetropolitan transportation planning [see text box that follows]. It also includes additional requirements for performance-related processes. For instance, State DOTs are required to develop a risk-based asset management plan for the National Highway System to improve or preserve the condition of the assets and the performance of the system; large MPOs are required to develop a performance plan in relation to the Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality Improvement (CMAQ) Program; and transit agencies are required to develop transit asset management plans and agency safety plans that include performance targets. State DOTs, MPOs, and transit agencies also must coordinate in the development of targets associated with national measures.[8]

Requirements for Performance-Based Planning and Programming

Metropolitan transportation planning: "[MPOs]…, in cooperation with the State and public transportation operators, shall develop long-range transportation plans and transportation improvement programs through a performance-driven, outcome-based approach to planning." 23 USC Section 134(c)(1); 49 USC Section 5303(c)(1). "The metropolitan transportation planning process shall provide for the establishment and use of a performance-based approach to transportation decisionmaking to support the national goals…." 23 USC Section 134(h)(2); 49 USC Section 5303(h)(2).

Statewide and nonmetropolitan transportation planning: "The statewide transportation planning process shall provide for the establishment and use of a performance-based approach to transportation decisionmaking to support the national goals…and the general purposes [of the public transportation program]. The performance measures and targets established [in relation to national performance measures] shall be considered by a State when developing policies, programs, and investment priorities reflected in the statewide transportation plan and statewide transportation improvement program." 23 USC Section 135(d)(2); 49 USC Section 5304(d)(2).

Within this evolving context, this Guidebook is designed to highlight effective practices to help transportation agencies in moving toward a performance-based approach to planning and programming. The Guidebook is not intended to establish requirements or standardize practices that must be used for all agencies; it is designed to provide useful concepts and key lessons for effective implementation.

While many agencies have taken steps toward a PBPP approach, implementing PBPP could involve adjustments over multiple planning cycles, as agencies collect and use data to inform decision-making and refine these approaches over time. Agencies using this Guidebook should expect that implementing PBPP does not involve a one-time set of activities but involves a continuous improvement approach incorporated into the on-going cycles of planning and programming.

Integrating Performance Management into Planning and Programming

Many transportation agencies currently have performance management programs. Performance management is the practice of setting goals and objectives; an on-going process of selecting measures, setting targets, and using measures in decision-making to achieve desired performance outcomes; and reporting results.[9] Performance management can be applied to many aspects of an agency's activities, including planning, operations, and maintenance, and typically addresses both the management of the transportation system and management of organizations. Commonly, the concept is applied in relation to specific issues, such as safety, asset condition, and operational performance, in order to track year-to-year performance trends, and to align staffing and budgeting to achieve desired performance targets within specific program areas. For instance, a State DOT may set targets and track performance in project delivery timeframes in order to focus attention on business processes to reduce project delays. Similarly, a transit agency may set targets for bus on-time performance and track data by route to identify necessary schedule and operational adjustments. While most transportation agencies are using performance management approaches in some form, these efforts often have not been fully integrated into transportation planning and programming.

Performance-based planning and programming involves integrating performance management concepts into the existing federally-required transportation planning and programming processes. PBPP involves using data to support long-range and short-range investment decision-making. It generally starts with a vision and goals for the transportation system, selection of performance measures, and use of data and analysis tools to inform development of investment priorities, which are then carried forward into shorter-term investment planning and programming.

PBPP should involve a range of activities and products undertaken by a transportation agency, working together with other agencies, stakeholders, and the public, as part of a 3C (cooperative, continuing, and comprehensive) process. These activities include:

Challenges Associated with PBPP

Although states, MPOs, RTPOs, transit agencies, and other transportation agencies are more commonly tracking performance measures, many challenges remain to the implementation of PBPP. For instance:

There are no simple solutions to these challenges. Over the past several years, FHWA and FTA have been supporting dialogue about PBPP to help transportation agencies learn from each other and share information on best practices. Activities have included a series of national and regional (multi-state) workshops in coordination with industry stakeholders including the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO), Association of Metropolitan Planning Organization (AMPO), National Association of Regional Councils (NARC), American Public Transportation Association (APTA), and National Association of Development Organization (NADO), as well as development of resources focused on performance-based processes, such as TAM, SHSPs and CMPs. In addition, FHWA and FTA developed a White Paper, which laid out key concepts in PBPP.[18] Under the National Cooperative Highway Research Program (NCHRP), several important guides and resources have been developed, including NCHRP Report 666: Target-Setting Methods and Data Management to Support Performance-Based Resource Allocation by Transportation Agencies, NCHRP Project 8-36 Task 104 Performance-Based Planning and Programming Pilots, and a series of projects under NCHRP 20-24(37) Measuring Performance among State DOTs: Sharing Good Practices. NCHRP and AASHTO also have been working together to move the industry to a focus on Transportation Performance Management. The lessons and experiences from those activities form a basis for this Guidebook.

Organization and Use of this Guidebook

The Guidebook is organized around the basic elements of a PBPP process:

Throughout the document, examples from around the country of DOTs, MPOs, RTPOs, and transit agencies are provided to help the reader understand how PBPP approaches have been implemented.

In addition to this document, companion documents are being developed focused specifically on the LRTP (Model Long Range Transportation Plans: A Guide to Performance Based Planning) and STIP (Electronic-STIPs: A Guide to Incorporating Performance Measures in Programming). These forthcoming resources will provide more detail on the implementation of PBPP within federally-required planning and programming documents.

Updated: 10/10/2013
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