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OCR for page 94
II-24 Guide for Target-Setting and Data Management Step 5--Track Progress Towards Targets "Measure and Report Results" already exists as an element in the Performance Management Framework; it is the final element before returning back to the beginning of the iterative process. Agencies should explicitly include tracking progress towards targets as part of this element of the Framework; four steps are suggested. In the private sector, metrics are shown so that an increase (or moving up on a graph) always indicates a positive result, and percent change is a preferable reporting method. Tracking Develop Monitoring Plan The monitoring plan should address elements such as what specifically is being tracked and if data collection is needed to support target-tracking, what data is to be collected, who will collect it, how will it be collected, where it will be stored, and how it will be reported back to the end-user. The plan should build upon existing data collection efforts (including existing procedures, equipment, and schedules) as much as possible. The plan also should build upon the facts, estimates, and analyses that were conducted as part of planning, programming, and budgeting for this project. These data would have been used to evaluate and rank the project by assessing its proposed improvements to transportation system performance and comput- ing its benefits and costs. These data will now form a baseline for comparison with perfor- mance tracking; compiling these data within the plan will ensure that all parties work with the same baseline. The plan should consider the following possibilities and options: Initial Monitoring Period. Certain transportation investments have an impact on transporta- tion system behavior immediately upon project completion (e.g., improvements to intersec- tions and signalization). For other investments, the performance improvement is apparent only after some period of time (e.g., the extension in asset life expectancy following preven- tive maintenance). The plan may need to distinguish between these two possibilities by speci- fying what measures should be tracked during the initial monitoring of each project: outcomes versus outputs. Outputs and Outcomes. Ideally, outcomes are tracked to determine whether investments have fulfilled policy objectives and targets. Tracking of improvements in outcomes can begin within the first year for those projects that have an immediate impact on performance (e.g., the intersection and signalization improvements noted previously). For those projects where changes in outcomes are not evident for some period of time (as with preventive mainte- nance), it may be desirable to include the documentation of output measures as well during initial monitoring. Outputs document the accomplishment of work and the type of solution used (e.g., number of bridges retrofitted with seismic protection, and number of miles resur- faced with hot-mix asphalt versus number of miles chip-sealed). They verify the fulfillment of decisions on method-of-project-accomplishment made during program and budget prepara- tion and provide a quantitative basis for reporting to stakeholders and the public in a period when meaningful outcome data are not yet available.

OCR for page 94
Guide for Target-Setting II-25 Outcome measures such as condition, rideability, and serviceability can be tracked continually for pavements, but they may not show initial-period improvement from preventive maintenance investments since preventive maintenance is per- formed while the asset is still in good condition. Information Sources. The Monitoring Plan will encompass a wide range of information sources to cover the several technical areas of the highway investment program (e.g., pavements, bridges, safety, congestion relief, environmental mitigation, etc.) and the need for output as well as out- come measures in some instances. Additional data (e.g., from planning or strategic management) will need to be monitored to analyze external effects. Track Progress After the initial monitoring period, tracking of performance outcomes becomes an ongoing process according to procedures in the Monitoring Plan and the defined performance measures. In conducting this tracking, the following two possibilities should be recognized and dealt with if needed. Isolate External Influences. The purpose of tracking performance in PBRA is to determine the effects of transportation investments. There are times, however, when external factors can con- found this relationship. Apparent changes in performance measures that are due to external causes rather than transportation-related actions produce a misleading indication of the benefit of a transportation investment. These external factors may comprise, for example, population and demographic shifts that have not been accounted for, unanticipated changes affecting travel demand (e.g., due to price changes in gasoline), technological changes affecting the vehicle fleet, and catastrophic natural disasters. The effects of these external factors should be isolated wher- ever possible. Apparent performance trends can be compared to data and assumptions in the baseline estimates to identify anomalies that may signal external influences. Comparison of actual trends (e.g., in population and demographic characteristics) to rates established, for example, by the planning office helps discern where prior assumptions may require change. Reconcile Competing Targets. Competing targets may create apparent tension in determining the performance benefits of investment decisions. For example, an economic development proj- ect to spur commercial activity may increase congestion at locations in the network. This type of issue can be resolved by understanding cause-and-effect, clarifying what is happening, and tak- ing appropriate steps to resolve the situation (e.g., subtracting the costs of congestion from the benefits of increased commercial activity; dealing with the congestion problem through a follow- up project if justified; clarifying and adjusting the specific economic and congestion targets for these network locations to reflect the perceived agency priorities; and proceeding forward). Develop Findings After sufficient time has passed to develop reliable performance trends (accounting for the types of checks and adjustments discussed in the previous section), progress towards the per- formance targets can be assessed. If progress appears to be on track to meet the target, the worth of the project and the merit of the decision to undertake the investment will begin to be verified. Moreover, confidence in the data and analytic models and procedures used to evaluate the proj- ect will be strengthened. If, after applying the checks and adjustments, it appears likely that the target will not be met, a review should begin to try to determine the cause of the divergence. Comparison of the actual