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Performance Based Planning and Programming Guidebook

5. Identify Trends and Targets

While a performance measure itself provides a metric for comparison, a PBPP process requires identification of desired trends (e.g., reduce, increase, maintain) or targets (specific numerical figures) associated with the performance measure in order to provide direction to strategy analysis and performance tracking.

In order to develop a target, it is important to analyze baseline data to understand past trends in performance, as well as conduct analysis of expected performance to account for factors that will affect performance in the future, including levels of available funding. As transportation agencies go through multiple cycles and iterations of planning, the agency will have more information to develop realistic targets.

Desired Trends and Numerical Targets

Desired trends and targets may be set in different ways, across a continuum:

Although there is no right or wrong way to establish targets, there may be value in starting with a directional or aspirational target as overall target for society, recognizing that there are many factors that affect the ability to meet these targets and the role of transportation agencies in this context. Then, when more data are available, realistic targets may be developed. Other considerations in setting targets include whether the target should be: a specific number, a percentage reduction/increase from a baseline (e.g., to 10% below current levels), or set to a particular benchmark (e.g., to national average, to year 2000 levels).

MTC: Considering both Aspirational and Realistic Targets

The Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC) of the San Francisco Bay Area included a set of ambitious targets in its 2035 Transportation Plan, adopted in 2009. These targets were aspirational, and included such targets as: "reduce per capita delay by 20 percent from today by 2035," "achieve an average age for all transit asset types that is no more than 50 percent of their useful life," and "reduce carbon dioxide emissions to 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2035." The Plan is notable for clearly identifying gaps between aspirational targets and expected outcomes as shown in the image below for the carbon dioxide target.

In the subsequent development of Plan Bay Area, MTC worked with the State of California to develop realistic targets in relations to requirements in Senate Bill 375, "The California Sustainable Communities and Climate Protection Act of 2008." These targets call for MTC to demonstrate that its long range plan will reduce per-capita CO2 emissions from cars and light-duty trucks 7% by 2020 and 15% by 2035, compared to 2005 levels.

A line graph represention of the reduction in carbon dioxide emissions. The x-axis represents years from 1990 to 2035 and the y-axis represents tons per day of CO2 (x1000) starting from 50 in 5 tons increments. There is an constant increase from approximately 84 tons in 1990 to 90 tons in 2005. There are three lines branching out from 2005. The first line (in black) labelled "Trend" shows a constant decrease to 77 tons in 2035. The second line (in grey) labelled "Best Infrastructure" shows a constant decrease to 75 tons by 2035. The third line (in grey) labelled "Adding Pricing and Land Use" shows a constant decrease to 65 tons by 2035. The last line (in black) labelled "2035 Objective" shows a constant decrease to 50 tons by 2035.

Sources: MTC, "Transportation 2035," and "Plan Bay Area,"

Time Frames for Target Setting and Planning Analysis

A target needs to have an associated time-frame associated with it, as the time-frame will help to determine what target level is feasible to achieve. Targets, therefore, may be set in the context of several analysis periods:

Desired trends and targets over the long range time horizon should form a basis for investment decision-making in planning and programming, as it is important to make sure that a program of projects does not focus on near-term improvement at the expense of long range priorities. Just as transportation asset management takes a long-range view of life-cycle costs and risks, targets used in the planning process across all key goal areas should build from those established in the long-range transportation planning process.

SFMTA: Developing Realistic Targets tied to Goals and Objectives

The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency's (SFMTA, also known as "Muni") Strategic Plan outlines clear connections between broad goals, objectives, performance indicators, and specific, time-bound targets. The agency also issues monthly progress reports that provide data on indicators for each target as well as information about what the agency has done to address each goal and related actions.

The image provides the SFMTA's first goal - to create a safer transportation experience for everyone. The safety of our sytem, its users, and our employee is of the utmost importance to use. Creating a safer transportation experience for everyone means a secure and comfortable system for users of all transportation modes and SFMTA programs, as well as safe facilities, vehicles and area in which to work. Over the next six years, the SFMTA will work to accomplish this goal through programs and initiatives like meeting the Agency's goals for achieving a state-of-good-repair for our fleet and facilities, expanding safety training programs for out employees, reducing walking, bicycle, transit, taxi, and auto incidents and accidents, and working with out colleagues and city partners to reduce crime on and near out transit system. The three objectives listed below are the main areas in which we will focus out efforts and resources. Each objective is tied closely to the others, and only with a consistent and continual effort made in each area will the SFMTA achieve the goal of a safer transportation system for everyone. Objective 1.1: Improve security for transportation system users. Objective 1.2: Improve workplace safety and security. Objective 1.3: Improve the safety of the transportation system. The performance indicators listed below are the key measures that will indicate how the SFMTA is performing with respect to this goal. We will monitor and manage many other measures to provide a comprehensive picture of how we are doing in terms of safety. The table provided is divided into 2 columns. The first column is labelled "Key Performance Indicators," and the second column is labelled "Targets" that includes FY 2014, FY 2016 and FY 2018. The numbers below correspond to each row in the table. 1 Objective 1.1:# of SFPD-reported transit system-related crimes(i.e. assaults, thefts, etc.)/100,000 miles. 2. Objective 1.2:# of workplace injuries/200,000 hours (100FTEs). 3. Objective 1.3# of preventable Muni collisions/100,000 miles. All the Performance Indicators have the same Target - Achieve 10% reduction in incidents each budget cycle.

Source: SFMTA, Strategic Plan: Fiscal Year 2013-Fiscal Year 2018,

Process for Setting Targets

The challenges associated with setting targets are well known. Specifically, agencies are often hesitant to commit publicly to the achievement of specific targets, especially if the agency has relatively little control over final outcomes. Moreover, there are often concerns both associated with not being able to meet an ambitious target as well as setting a target that appears too low in comparison to broad societal goals. In some cases, performance may not reasonably be expected to improve, and it is problematic to create a target that shows a worsening of conditions. For instance, particularly with limited funding, it may be difficult to achieve significant improvements in asset condition or congestion. In these cases, the analysis of the anticipated condition without the investment in projects to alleviate it should be documented to chart the impact on conditions.

Analyze Baseline Data and Develop Assumptions

Selecting a target typically involves determining baseline conditions and assessing what may be feasible given resource constraints. Baseline conditions will include past trends and current performance levels, as well as analysis to understand trends and factors that will affect future performance.

Establishing a base line or trend data is rarely as simple as measuring the most recently-available data on selected performance measures. Data should be evaluated over time so that trends or any unusual fluctuations can be identified. In addition, data on external forces should be taken into consideration as well. In evaluating how congestion has changed over the previous decade, for example, it is important to consider factors such as population and employment growth and land use changes.

Depending on the organization's resources, modeling can be conducted to develop a baseline scenario for the future, extrapolating based on current trends or information about expected changes in the future. This modeling can be relatively sophisticated. Using the example of traffic congestion, in most regions, it is likely that congestion will worsen over a 20-30 year time horizon even with investments in multimodal transportation services, infrastructure, and new operational strategies. Having an evidence-based "business as usual" scenario can contextualize outcomes for the general public, providing them with a better understanding of why performance is getting worse relative to the existing baseline conditions.

Given that PBPP is an iterative or cyclical process, performance that is monitored may become the new base line against which results from the next performance cycle are reported.

Consider Multiple Factors

Target-setting is a multidimensional process that involves various considerations, involving:

There are several ways in which targets can be set:[34]

Within a PBPP process, establishing targets likely should involve some combination, particularly relying on policy priorities, analysis, consensus, and customer feedback. Understanding the available strategies being considered and that could be funded is critical to developing realistic targets. Moreover, it is important to recognize that targets may differ in different regions or for different types of facilities, reflecting the priorities of the community in relation to different performance outcomes, as well as wise investment decision-making from an asset management perspective. For instance, it may not be prudent to have a target for all bridges to be at the same level of structural condition, recognizing the difference between highly traveled connectors and less critical roadways. Moreover, it may not make sense to have the same target for transit service access in all regions.

Targets may evolve over time as additional information is gathered and performance is monitored over time. Several agencies with experience using performance measures and targets have demonstrated refinements over time. The Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC), the MPO for the San Francisco Bay Area, has a performance-based process that has been evolutionary during the development of its last four LRTPs, and refinements over time have contributed to the development of more meaningful targets for the agency. At the state level, Washington State DOT's (WSDOT's) experience also confirms that target-setting requires a history of performance data as well as managerial comprehension and appreciation of the data, which requires time and experience.[35]

Southern California Association of Governments: Using Communication Tools to Visualize Performance Outcomes

Since 1998, the Southern California Association of Governments (SCAG) has based its Regional Transportation Plan (RTP) decisions on performance through measures and targets reflecting changing circumstances and feedback from the public. SCAG's most recent 2012-2035 RTP/Sustainable Communities Strategy (SCS) includes performance measures and target outcomes with respect to the following areas: location efficiency, mobility and accessibility, safety and health, environmental quality, economic well-being, investment effectiveness, and system sustainability. SCAG used innovative public participation techniques to communicate with and engage the public. SCAG produced visuals that depicted four possible scenarios that varied based on development location, neighborhood design, housing options, and transportation investments. SCAG identified how each scenario would impact factors such as land consumption, local infrastructure costs, vehicle miles traveled, fuel consumption, household costs, greenhouse gas emissions, building energy use, water consumption, and public health. All of these factors are related to the performance areas, each of which has several measures that have been refined over time during each of four plan update cycles since 1998.

The image has been divided into four sections. Each section has a label, an image below it, and a double-sided arrow covering the length of the section. The first section is labelled "Development Location," A double-sided red arrow is labelled "Dispersed Growth" on the left and "Focused Development" on the right. The next section is labelled "Community/Neighborhood Design." A double-sided green arrow is labelled "Auto-Oriented" on the left and "Walkable" on the right. The third section is labelled "Housing Options and Mix." A double-sided yellow arrow is labelled "Single Family Subdivisions" on the left and "Multifamily Focus" on the right.The last section is labelled "Transportation Investment." A double-sided blue arrow is labelled "Roads/Highways" on the right and "Transit and Non-Auto Strateges" on the left.

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Updated: 10/20/2015
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