Emerging Practices in Performance Based Planning in Urban Regions in the United States

Emerging Practices in Performance Based Planning in Urban Regions in the United States


Alice Grossman, Georgia Institute of Technology


Nationwide survey results and in depth case studies inform why urban regions in the US choose specific performance metrics, how the metrics play a role in transportation planning, and when the plans match up with reality.


Quantifiable performance metrics play an important role in transportation project prioritization and decision-making. Recently in the United States, Metropolitan Planning Organizations (MPOs) have time been tasked by federal legislation to develop long-term transportation plans that include performance metrics. The requirements include standard, uniform indicators for specific projects and entire metropolitan regions, and lead to performance analysis serving as evidence of the productive use of taxpayer dollars towards public accountability. However, regions may differ in their history of voluntarily collecting data and utilizing performance based planning methods, and their response to the new federal requirements. This study looks at how MPOs across the United States, 1) use and develop standard and unique performance measures; 2) prioritize and evaluate projects; and 3) act on influence from local, versus state, versus federal goals, regulations, and legislation. Literature reviews of regional, state, and federal documents, and background research on legislative history with respect to collecting and using performance metrics will be presented. Additionally, the paper covers the design and deployment of a survey of all MPOs nationwide. Survey data will include the following information from MPO respondents: performance metrics collected, timeframe for MPO collection of information on each metric, relationship (if at all) that each metric has to goals or regulations at varying levels of government, role of performance metrics in project prioritization, and weight of each metric in the project prioritization process. Preliminary survey results and analysis will be presented as well as relevant case study research stemming from survey results. Grouping of MPOs based on characteristics of the regions such as demographics, size, and political climate through a factor analysis of survey results will arrange agencies into unique groups. By choosing case studies from various groups for in depth analysis and comparison, this research will how different types of urban regions approach and carry out performance based planning in transportation planning. This research will increase the scope of knowledge and understanding on why urban regions in the United States choose individual performance metrics, how those metrics play a role in the transportation planning process, and when those plans match up with reality. The paper examines the role of US Federal legislation in boots-on-the-ground transportation project implementation. Recommendations are provided on performance based planning methods for urban regions. Elements will be scalable, down to the local, and up to state and federal levels.


Association for European Transport