Transportation Performance Measures Get the Spotlight in MAP-21 and Upcoming CSG Webinar

While MAP-21, the surface transportation authorization bill approved by Congress this summer, had numerous provisions (and a few notable omissions), observers say the legislation’s establishment of transportation performance measures is one of the key reforms with the potential to be truly transformative for the federal-aid highway program. National transportation goals will be emphasized and there will be important roles for state governments and metropolitan planning organizations in developing performance measures and targets. CSG has long been a supporter of state performance measurement initiatives through efforts like our States Perform website. That’s why we jumped at the chance to host an upcoming webinar for Cambridge Systematics that will help the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) design a performance reporting approach that policymakers at all levels will find useful.

Former Kansas Secretary of Transportation Deb Miller, now a Cambridge Systematics senior associate, will lead the webinar, which takes place Thursday, August 30th from 2 to 3pm EDT (register here). Cambridge is under contract to FHWA to research audience preferences on the most effective data visualization approaches for transportation performance measures. Those participating in the webinar will be able to provide Miller and her team important feedback for their final report to FHWA.

Demonstrating performance and efficient investment in transportation has become an important focus at both the state and federal levels, especially as funds for transportation have grown increasingly scarce in recent years. Many believe that in order to convince a skeptical public that their tax dollars for transportation are being spent wisely, it will be necessary for government accountability and transparency to increase to a significant degree and for performance-based planning of transportation projects to take hold.

MAP-21 directs the U.S. Department of Transportation to work with states and MPOs to develop performance measures related to national goal areas including safety, infrastructure condition, congestion reduction, system reliability, freight movement and economic vitality, environmental stability, and reduction of project delivery delays. States will then have to come up with their own performance targets for each of the measures.

For those interested in learning more about MAP-21’s performance measurement and management provisions, the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) has analysis in a quick six-page read. You can also read how one MPO sizes things up in a recent blog post from the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning (CMAP). The piece also examines how MAP-21 parallels elements of CMAP’s GO TO 2040 initiative, which provides a comprehensive regional plan for the Chicago area.

More on Performance Measurement & Management

  • The Federal Highway Administration issued a report earlier this year on establishing performance measures in the realm of transportation operations for the efficient management of traffic flow on the nation’s highway system.
  • The Transportation Research Board’s National Cooperative Highway Research Program covers some of the same ground in its recent report on “Performance-Based Highway Maintenance and Operations Management.”
  • The Wisconsin Department of Transportation earlier this year released the first compilation of data analysis on the performance of the state’s transportation system from its MAPSS Performance Dashboard. The agency has five key goals (mobility, accountability, preservation, safety and service) and tracks 23 separate measures using the dashboard.
  • Governing magazine’s Ryan Holeywell examined whether the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act’s emphasis on data reporting did anything for future transparency and open government in a piece back in February. The piece includes a map that gives each state a grade for their provision of online access to government spending data.
  • Transparency and accountability are topics I also addressed in my 2010 CSG National Report on ARRA “Shovel-Ready or Not?: State Stimulus Successes on the Road to Recovery.”
  • Fans of transportation data may want to check out two new reports from the Bureau of Transportation Statistics. “State Transportation Statistics 2011” provides a wide range of state-by-state information in areas like infrastructure conditions, safety, freight, passenger travel, vehicle miles traveled, economy and finance, and energy and environment. And “Government Transportation Financial Statistics” has dozens of 50-state tables tracking federal and state government expenditures on transportation up through the most recent year for which data is available (2009).