State DOTs have made progress in developing performance measures to inform their planning, but they face several challenges, including identifying indicators for qualitative concepts such as livability, according to a new U.S. Government Accountability Office report.
And while many states have established measures, only a “select few states have made significant attempts to integrate performance measures into their statewide planning process,” the report said. It did not name those states.
The report, GAO-11-77, released Dec. 15, found that nearly all states had performance measures and quantifiable targets for safety and road-surface and bridge conditions, in part due to federal requirements for data collection in these areas. A majority of states also had some kinds of project measures, such as cost or timeliness, and mobility measures, such as vehicle congestion or intermodal connectivity.
Just under half the states – 24 – had a performance measure for transportation-related energy consumption, and 20 of them had set quantifiable targets.
The GAO asked DOTs about barriers to wider use of performance measures. Most common responses were:
- Identifying indicators for qualitative measures, such as livability (41 states cited this as a great or very great challenge).
- Collecting data to track multimodal performance (cited by 29 states).
- Securing resource to develop or maintain a performance management system (cited by 28 states).
- Identifying indicators to measure planning effectiveness (cited by 25 states).
- Applying performance terms and methods uniformly (cited by 21 states).
Indicating a general acceptance of performance-based decision-making, only six states said “overcoming institutional resistance to using performance measures” was a great or very great challenge.
GAO recommended that Congress consider three actions to advance performance-based decision-making:
- Specify transportation outcomes for states to address in their planning, and charge U.S. DOT with assessing their progress during STIP review and approval.
- Require states to update their long-range transportation plans on a prescribed schedule.
- Require U.S. DOT and the states to collaboratively develop appropriate performance measures to track progress in achieving desired outcomes.