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Performance-based Planning and Programming - White Paper

3.0 Performance-based Planning and Programming

3.1 Common Elements of Performance-based Planning and Programming

While the three agencies described in Section 2.0 each have a unique approach to performance-based planning and programming, there are common elements from these and other examples that provide a framework for advancing performance-based planning and programming. The discussion below reflects these examples, the experience of other agencies in conducting performance-based planning and programming, and input from participants at the 2011 National Workshop held in Chicago, IL.

This section describes the common elements of an analytic approach to transportation planning and programming that represents a performance-based approach. These elements are rooted in a system or program level analysis that asks a basic question: what are the expected impacts of a set of strategies on future system performance? This analysis is a vital part of long-range planning and mid-range investment planning that State DOTs, MPOs, and transit agencies are increasingly using in statewide and metropolitan transportation planning to help guide future investments.

Setting Direction

Each of the examples cited in Section 2.0 began by identifying a strategic direction that consists of goals and objectives, and is supported by performance measures:

Long Range Planning

Most agencies that conduct performance-based planning and programming also conduct some type of strategy evaluation, though the specifics vary from one agency to another. The purpose of planning is to guide investment and policy decisions over a long time frame (10 to 20 years). For performance-based plans, there is an expectation that agencies describe expected performance outcomes for a package of strategies across several goal areas and use this information to help them determine how best to focus their resources. However, many agencies still struggle with quantifying future performance outcomes. The components of strategy evaluation include:

Table 3.1 Mn/DOT Targets for Infrastructure Preservation
Infrastructure Preservation Category Performance Measure Target Method for Determining Needs
Pavement RQI (Ride Quality Index) PA > 70% good
< 2% poor
Non- > 65% good
PA < 3% poor
Pavement Management System
Bridge Structural Condition of Bridges over 20 ft and on Principal Arterials >84% in Good or Satisfactory condition,
<2% in Poor condition
Bridge Management System
Other Infrastructure (signs, lighting, traffic signals, drainage, etc) Condition or Life Cycle Replacement Varies Inventory and condition assessment
Estimate of assets/ replacement cost

Source: Performance-Based Planning and Programming at Mn/DOT, presentation by Tim Henkel, September 2011


Resource allocation is the process of selecting specific investments in the transportation system. These investments are typically listed in an agency capital plan and/or in a STIP or TIP, which are federally-mandated documents that enable receipt of Federal funds. The S/TIP development process varies widely from region to region. In a performance-based framework, the resource allocation step links the system-level analysis of strategies described above to the programming of specific projects. There are three key elements of resource allocation:

The agencies described in Section 2.0 use a variety of methods to make the linkage between system performance and project programming, including the step that translates system performance analysis into specific projects. This takes:

Each of these methods has performance-based aspects and, in practice, hybrids of these approaches are likely to be used to support resource allocation. For example, pavement and bridge management programs typically use a system optimization approach within their individual programs, while a corridor approach may be well suited to examine the range of capacity, transit service, highway operations, and certain safety improvements.

Fundamental to a performance-based approach is the recognition that agencies should first identify projects that are consistent with their goals and performance targets, and then determine the appropriate funding source for those projects. Unlike a traditional programming and budgeting process that identifies funding sources first, this approach first identifies the set of projects that best help the agency meet its goals or targets. The second step, then, is to identify what potential funding sources can be used to fund the preferred set of projects. Many Federal and State funding sources have some flexibility and can be used for multiple purposes or can be combined on projects to meet multiple goals.


While the previous sections describe how performance measures are used in preparing plans and programs of future investment, another key element of performance-based planning and programming is tracking actual performance through ongoing reporting. Two types of tracking are relevant:

Finally, any planning process includes evaluation of the types of information used and the elements of the process. This evaluation includes providing feedback to other elements of the overall process and improving how the planning process is used to make decisions.

3.2 Performance-based Planning and Programming Process

Table 3.2 summarizes the elements described previously. This framework represents a vision for the future of planning and programming. This information would evolve over time as tools, data, and processes improve.

Table 3.2 Performance-based Planning and Programming Elements
Elements Description Examples
Strategic Direction (Where do we want to go?)
Goals and objectives Goals and objectives that capture an agency's strategic direction. Infrastructure condition, safety, mobility, reliability, and other goals established by an agency.
Performance measure Agreed on measures for goals and objectives. Percent of bridges in good condition, travel time index, and other measures linked to agency goals.
Long Range Planning (How are we going to get there?)
Identify targets and trends Establish aspirational targets or preferred trends based on the an understanding of a desirable future for each goal area and measure. Desired conditions of pavement, bridge, and transit assets.
Desired future corridor travel times or reliability levels.
Desired future crash, injury, and fatality reductions.
Identify strategies Strategies, policies, and investments that address transportation system needs within the identified goal areas. Resurfacing, rehabilitation, replacement and reconstruction to support infrastructure condition.
Signal timing, vehicle maintenance, service patrols, additional capacity, (transit or highway), tolling, and other strategies/investments to improve mobility or reliability.
Seat belt or drunk driving enforcement, graduated drivers licenses, rumble strips, training, median barriers, and other investments to improve safety.
Strategy evaluation Evaluate strategies and define program level system performance expectations, may be qualitative. Examine impact of varying levels of investment on pavement and, bridge preservation and transit assets.
Examine impact of packages of operations, capacity and other highway or transit investments on corridor travel time and/or reliability.
Examine potential for reduction in crashes, injuries, and fatalities from a package of safety investments.
Programming (What will it take?)
Investment plan Identify the amount and mix of funding needed to achieve performance goals within individual program areas. Investment plan for pavement, bridge, transit asset, operations, expansion, safety, and other projects consistent with strategy evaluation, including specific projects and high level summary of expected investment levels.
Resource constrained targets and trends Established quantitative or qualitative targets or desired trends for each goal/measure. Expected future conditions of pavement and, bridge conditions, and transit assets.
Expected future corridor travel times or reliability improvements given a package of investments.
Expected range of crash, injury, and fatality reduction from a package of safety investments.
Program of projects Identify specific transportation projects for an agency capital plan, or S/TIP that are consistent with system performance expectations established in strategy evaluation. S/TIP with specific projects identified in major program areas (pavement, bridge, transit assets, capital, operations, safety, etc.).
Implementation and Evaluation (How did we do?)
Reporting and monitoring Monitor progress on goals relative to targets and resource allocation efforts. Report on pavement, bridge, transit assets, reliability, safety, and other metrics presented to stakeholders, public and decision makers.
Evaluation Identify improvements in analytics, process, etc., to improve the planning process. Examine actual conditions relative to expected conditions for assets, reliability, safety, and other areas. Identify where tools produced inaccurate estimates or investments and policies were more or less successful than planned.

Figure 3.1 presents how these elements are arrayed into the planning process. As suggested by participants at the 2011 National Workshop, the figure describes how performance management would enhance the established transportation planning and programming process. The figure builds off of the FHWA and FTP Transportation Planning Capacity Building Team's The Transportation Planning Process Key Issues: A Briefing Book for Transportation Decision Makers, Officials, and Staff. The figure identifies the steps of the federally required planning process, including:

Figure 3.1 Performance-based Planning and Programming Process

Figure 3.1 is a flow chart depicting how performance-based planning elements can be integrated into the federally required transportation planning process.

Figure 3.2 graphically illustrates the types of information that might be included in a performance-based plan for a given performance measure. It includes:

Figure 3.2 Example of Information Expected in a Performance-based Planning and Programming Process

Figure 32 is a chart depicting graphically the type of information used in performance-based planning and programming including the historic trend of performance; a forecast of future performance and how that compares to a future target; and a comparison of actual observed performance to that forecast.

For all of this information, it is anticipated that plans and programs would provide substantial narrative to explain the quantitative findings and document the policies and strategies being implemented in each area.

3.3 Other Issues

This section summarizes several key issues that were identified in the development of the framework, including:


In addition to the elements described above in the framework, important implementation steps include:

Data and Tools

While not a specific element in a planning process, data and analytic tools are critical resources for performance-based planning and programming. Conducting system or project analysis will require a suite of approaches, tools and methodologies to help DOTs, MPOs, and transit agencies both measure current performance and predict future performance, given a set of strategies and investments.

Tools and data vary by performance area and agency type and size. Some performance areas have well established tools (e.g., pavement and bridge management systems) or significant data collection efforts (e.g., the Fatality Accident Reporting System, or FARS) that can help in measuring and evaluating expected future performance. Transit agencies operate numerous modes (e.g., heavy rail, bus, light rail, streetcar) in diverse conditions, making data collection and analysis more complex and less comparable across transit agencies. For a performance-based planning and programming approach to work, it needs to build on the success and information that is currently available, such as State DOT pavement and bridge management systems or transit asset management systems and planning processes like the SHSP and CMP. The range of approaches that may be acceptable will vary by the level of maturity, size, and other differences among State DOTs, MPOs, and transit agencies.

The ability to forecast future performance varies significantly depending on the type of strategy and investment. Additional capacity building will be needed to improve forecasting tools or to identify areas where a qualitative approach is more appropriate.

In the previous version of this effort, tools and data were identified as elements of the overall framework. At the suggestion of participants in the 2011 National Workshop, these have been moved to be identified as critical supporting resources for the overall framework, but not separate elements. Data and tools are required throughout the planning process, but are not themselves an element of the process.

Planning Analysis Time Frames

Actual delivery of performance-based planning and programming will likely occur across the range of planning efforts and will apply to several analysis periods, including:

How these planning horizons are addressed within specific planning documents will vary from one agency to another.

Roles for State DOTs, MPOs, and Transit Agencies

While the framework presented above is meant to apply broadly to transportation planning and programming, some aspects of the framework may apply more readily to certain types of agencies than others. Specifically:

For any given agency, it may be appropriate to begin development of a performance-based planning and programming process by focusing on a subset of goals and expanding efforts over time. As described above, it will be important to coordinate with and build on work conducted through complementary planning processes (such as for strategic highway safety plans (SHSP)) because all units within a State DOT, MPO, or transit agency will have roles in the achievement of performance outcomes.

Updated: 1/8/2014
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