MAP-21 and the subsequent FAST Act prioritized a performance management-focused approach to transportation funding. MPOs, DOTs, and transit agencies adopted Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) around safety, state of good repair, congestion mitigation, system reliability, freight movement, project delivery and environmental mitigation. While it’s unclear if this approach actually leads to optimal community outcomes, the pace of change in the market necessitates a consideration of a new approach to performance management. As more innovative and personalized modes enter the transportation landscape, it's critical for transit agencies to view performance measurement through the lens of customer mobility. There are three essential steps to realign thinking around performance management:
1. Choose Metrics that Matter- Customers shouldn't need an engineering degree to understand their transit operator's performance. Agencies need to develop performance measurement frameworks that matter to customers and illustrate clear outcomes around the impact on the customer experience and value to the community. Measurement for topics like asset management and operational performance are important for someone at the transit agency to manage, but should be translated into digestible datapoints that speak to outcomes. For example, while an "average age of fleet" metric is important for agency decision-making, the real outcome that matters is whether the fleet allows the agency to meet customer expectations for reliability of service, or is a barrier to that. Agencies should prioritize and communicate metrics that matter to the average transportation consumer.
2. Take an Interagency Approach- As customers begin to move beyond single modes and embrace connections between different mobility options, agencies need to think about how to measure their performance outside of their individual scopes of authority. If we consider a commuter who bikes to transit and then takes an Uber the last mile to work, this trip can be measured many different ways with varying implications for each agency engaged with this trip. For example:
Transit Agency: ridership, on-time performance, customer satisfaction, farebox recovery, customers per hour
DOT/DPW (Owner of the Street ROW): roadway congestion, traffic volume, roadway safety
Bike Share Operator: ridership, customer satisfaction, customers per hour, cost recovery
TNC Operator: driver professionalism, trip distance, customer satisfaction, customers per hour
While this list is not exhaustive, several metrics are shared across modes. Aggregating these datapoints can provide valuable insights on the overall nature of a commute and performance of the overall transportation network. There is an opportunity for agencies to work together to identify these shared metrics and develop cross-sector reporting mechanisms focused on the whole trip.
3. Put Mobility First - While transit agencies need to "think outside the bus," all transportation agencies and operators need to realign thinking around performance management. Key performance indicators should be prioritized to put customers first. At the end of the day, bike share and scooter operators, transit agencies, transportation network companies (TNCs) and other related agencies exist to provide mobility to the customers/constituents. Each has a place in the mobility network and will be better positioned to succeed if customers can make seamless connections and maintain trip-by-trip flexibility to choose the right mode for them at any given time.
More high-quality transportation options mean more unique trips and more datapoints to measure. With increasing complexity, transportation agencies need to focus on common, customer-centric performance metrics.