The recently-passed transportation reauthorization bill Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century (MAP-21) features a new federal emphasis on performance measurement. This focus is consistent with GO TO 2040, which promotes the transparency of public data and decision-making and seeks to improve the accountability of public spending by better linking investments to outcomes. However, MAP-21 only applies performance measurement at the programmatic, rather than project, level and does not generally link performance measures and targets to funding decisions via performance-based funding.

GO TO 2040's approach to performance measurement has two major components: performance measures and performance-based funding.

  • Performance measures are data about the use, condition, and impact of the transportation system. These measures are best thought of as indicators – data that is publicly reported for illustrative purposes or to demonstrate progress made toward established targets. Several state departments of transportation (DOTs) are active in performance measurement, as illustrated by the Missouri DOT's Tracker tool, the Minnesota DOT's annual performance reports, and the North Carolina DOT's organizational performance website. CMAP is also active in performance tracking through its dissemination of data via the MetroPulse portal, the various indicators included in GO TO 2040, its Congestion Management Process, and other transportation programs.
  • Performance-based funding uses a variety of performance measures to assist in prioritizing and selecting projects for funding. This data is used as part of a transparent, public process that also relies on the professional judgment of transportation stakeholders and, in some cases, the general public. Project scores built from quantitative and qualitative input must be reconciled against available funds. Note that not all performance measures can be immediately applied to the programming process; many indicators are developed at the system level, not the project level, and would need to be gathered in greater detail to be useful in programming. CMAP's Issue Brief on the use of performance-based evaluation criteria for transportation funding falls under this category, as do the experiences of peer states and metropolitan regions that participated in the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA)/Federal Transit Administration (FTA) Transportation Planning Capacity Building program peer exchange CMAP hosted last month.

Performance measures and performance-based funding are also compared and contrasted in the matrix below.

The following image illustrates the sequence of a performance-based funding process and emphasizes that performance measures play a critical role in this process as a source of data.

MAP-21 and Performance Measures
MAP-21 focuses more on implementing performance measurement than performance-based funding. Under MAP-21, U.S. DOT will establish performance measures and state DOTs will develop performance targets in consultation with metropolitan planning organizations (MPOs) and others. State investments must make progress toward these performance targets, and MPOs must incorporate these performance measures and targets into their Transportation Improvement Programs (TIPs) and Long Range Transportation Plans. However, MAP-21 imposes no financial penalty for states and MPOs that fail to make progress toward these performance goals, and funding decisions for any given project are not explicitly tied to performance criteria.

The following sections outline the performance provisions of MAP-21 as they apply to the federal government, state DOTs, MPOs, and transit providers. For overviews of MAP-21's performance provisions, consult this summary or more-detailed analysis from the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials. For an overview of other policy changes made by MAP-21, consult a previous CMAP Policy Update.

National Performance Goals and Measures
MAP-21 identifies seven thematic areas for which the Secretary of Transportation will determine performance measures. These areas include (1) safety, (2) infrastructure condition, (3) congestion reduction, (4) system reliability, (5) freight movement and economic vitality, (6) environmental sustainability, and (7) reduced project delivery delays. MAP-21 describes the high-level national goals associated with each of these topics. To implement these goals, the Transportation Secretary must determine measures and minimum standards for states to follow for the various core programs established in MAP-21.

The law requires the Secretary to consult with state DOTs, MPOs, and other stakeholders when determining performance measures and to promulgate rulemaking within 18 months of enactment. MAP-21 allows the Secretary to incorporate some flexibility into these standards and measures, such as allowing different minimum standards for Interstate pavement conditions for different regions of the country. U.S. DOT must also determine the data elements that are required to implement MAP-21's performance-based approach.

MAP-21 includes a number of reporting requirements for U.S. DOT. Within five years of enactment, the Secretary must submit to Congress reports on the effectiveness of MPOs' and states' performance-based planning processes. These reports will assess the overall effectiveness of performance-based planning in guiding transportation investments, including the extent to which states and MPOs select reasonable performance targets, as well as the extent to which they meet these targets.

State Performance Targets and Plans
Within a year of the Secretary's final rulemaking on performance measures, states must set performance targets for the measures identified by U.S. DOT. MAP-21 allows states to determine different performance targets for rural and urban areas. Within four years of the enactment of MAP-21 and every other year thereafter, states are required to submit reports on the condition and performance of the National Highway System, the effectiveness of their asset management plans, the progress made toward achieving performance targets, and how they address freight bottlenecks.

MAP-21 also requires states to develop a number of performance-based plans, including a risk-based asset management plan and a strategic highway safety plan. States are also encouraged to develop freight plans, and some MPOs are required to draft Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality Improvement (CMAQ) program performance plans (see next section). These plans generally include a review of current conditions and a description of strategies to be used in meeting performance targets. States that fail to develop asset management plans for the National Highway System would receive a lower federal cost share of 65 percent for any project or activity.

MAP-21 imposes further penalties on states that fail to meet their performance targets under the National Highway Performance Program and the Highway Safety Improvement Program. The Secretary can require states to spend at least the amount apportioned in FY 2009 under the Interstate Maintenance program (adjusted over time) to redress substandard conditions on the Interstate System. Additionally, if more than 10 percent of a state's total deck area of bridges on the National Highway System is structurally deficient, states must devote at least 50 percent of the funds apportioned in FY 2009 under the former Highway Bridge Program to redress the substandard bridge conditions. Also, states that fail to meet their performance targets under the Highway Safety Improvement Program (HSIP) are required to devote an amount of obligation limitation equal to the prior year's HSIP apportionment to safety projects. No penalties are imposed for failure to meet the performance targets of the CMAQ or Freight Movement programs.

Planning and Performance
MPOs must establish performance targets that reflect national performance goals and measures. These measures must be coordinated with state DOTs and transit providers. They must be set by MPOs within 180 days of the state DOT's or transit agency's establishment of performance targets.

The law requires long-range regional transportation plans to describe the MPO's performance measures and targets, a practice already incorporated into GO TO 2040. For example, the Invest Strategically in Transportation section of our region's plan includes indicators and targets for three variables: principal arterials in acceptable ride quality, bridges found to be in "not deficient" condition, and time spent in congestion. Under MAP-21, MPOs' transportation plans must also include a "system performance report" to track progress made toward the MPO's performance targets.

For MPOs that elect to develop multiple scenarios in the development of their long-range plans, MAP-21 recommends that each scenario be evaluated against its impact on the various performance measures. The long-range plan should describe how the preferred scenario improves performance, as well as how changes in policy and investment decisions affect the costs of achieving performance targets. As an example of a scenario-based long-range planning process, CMAP explored three alternative scenarios for future development. The alternative scenarios, along with public input gathered from the agency's "Invent the Future" campaign, were used to create a preferred Regional Scenario, a document that helped formulate ideas for the final GO TO 2040 plan.

MAP-21 also requires that the TIPs developed by MPOs include a description of the anticipated effect of the program on achieving regional performance targets identified in the long-range transportation plan. This requirement is designed to directly link investments to performance targets. CMAP's current TIP provides a narrative description of its consistency with GO TO 2040 and the regional Congestion Management Process. Also, CMAP has taken great strides in improving the transparency of its TIP program through an interactive map, dashboard, and database.

The use of performance measures for statewide planning mirror those just described for metropolitan planning. State DOTs must also incorporate performance targets into their transportation plans and state TIPs (STIPs) via system performance reports and estimates of progress made toward performance targets.

Further, MPOs that cover transportation management areas of over 1 million residents that are in non-attainment or maintenance of federal air quality regulations are required to develop a CMAQ Program Performance Plan. This plan must include data on baseline traffic congestion and vehicle emissions, describe progress made toward performance targets, and describe how projects funded through the CMAQ program will make progress toward performance targets.

In the northeastern Illinois CMAQ program, CMAP publishes a proposal's estimated reduction in volatile organic compounds, nitrous oxides, trips, and vehicles miles traveled, as well as its cost-effectiveness at achieving those reductions. CMAP also adopted a focused programming approach for the program in January 2011. Under focused programming, applicants to the CMAQ program demonstrate their project's consistency with GO TO 2040, and projects must contribute to the program's four broad objectives: localized congestion relief, operational improvements, mode shift, and direct emissions reduction. Committees of regional stakeholders then review proposals against these criteria. These committees are organized into four focus groups based on project type (Regional Transportation Operations Coalition, Bicycle and Pedestrian Task Force, Direction Emissions Reduction, and Transit) and prioritize projects using both quantitative and qualitative criteria. The prioritizations are then relayed to the CMAQ Project Selection Committee and combined with the technical analysis completed by CMAP staff to create a proposed program.

Although MAP-21 contains extensive language on incorporating performance measures into both the statewide and metropolitan planning processes, the law does not provide a meaningful enforcement mechanism for those requirements. Neither MPOs nor states face penalties for failing to consider performance factors in their planning processes. Additionally, MAP-21 asserts that the new reporting requirements for the STIP and TIP must be completed only to the "maximum extent practicable."

Transit and Performance
Within one year of MAP-21's enactment, the Secretary must determine both performance measures and a formal definition for "state of good repair." Within three months of the Secretary's rulemaking, transit agencies receiving federal assistance are required to develop performance targets for state of good repair. Transit agencies are also required to develop asset management plans, which in turn must include capital asset inventories, condition assessments, decision support tools, and investment prioritization. The Secretary must also develop a national transit asset management system. MAP-21 requires transit agencies to report annually to the Secretary on the progress made toward performance targets in that fiscal year, as well as define new performance targets for the coming fiscal year.

Northeastern Illinois transit agencies are already moving forward on asset management systems. The Regional Transportation Authority (RTA) is currently refining its objective, needs-based capital programming process. The RTA recently received a grant to partner with the Federal Transit Administration in developing a Transit Asset Management Program. This effort will include consistent, data-driven decision tools to help the RTA monitor and improve the state of good repair of its capital assets. The program will better link upstream asset data and condition analyses with downstream capital project prioritization and budgeting. The Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) is also implementing an asset management system, which will collect data on the asset inventory into a new database, update condition data, develop reporting and modeling tools to assist the CTA's capital planning process, while creating a method for long-term maintenance of this data.

MAP-21 contains extensive language on performance measurement and targets and makes strides toward the regular, public reporting of performance data. The law also seeks to improve the accountability of federal spending by requiring state DOTs, MPOs, and transit agencies to report on progress made toward performance targets and by requiring these agencies to incorporate performance measures into their broader planning processes.

MAP-21 does not, however, generally link these performance measures and targets to funding decisions. And in the instances where it does, the law simply applies penalties to states that fail to meet standards and mandates they take corrective action. In short, MAP-21 focuses on performance measures but not performance-based funding; it applies language on performance measurement to the programmatic level rather than the project level. The law's emphasis on transparency and accountability is commendable, but MAP-21 should be viewed as a first step toward a larger performance-based funding system.