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July 2011 NATIONAL COOPERATIVE HIGHWAY RESEARCH PROGRAM Responsible Senior Program Officer: Gwen Chisholm Smith Research Results Digest 358 STATEWIDE TRANSIT GOAL SETTING This digest summarizes the results of NCHRP Project 20-65/Task 34, "Statewide Transit Goal Setting." The research reported herein was performed under NCHRP 20-65 by ICF International. The report was prepared by Mr. Terence Plaskon, Senior Associate at ICF; Ms. Stephanie Trainor, Associate; and Mr. Michael Grant, Principal. SUMMARY specifically focused on statewide transit goal setting. Most literature addressed the Introduction broader issues of performance-based plan- State departments of transportation ning at state DOTs. Where transit was dis- (DOTs) are gradually incorporating a cussed, it was often in relation to transit performance-based approach to their trans- agency-established goals and transit agency portation planning. This includes setting performance-based planning. statewide goals for the different systems Following the literature review, the that make up the state's transportation research team conducted an online survey network. However, state DOTs have lim- of state DOTs on their transit goal setting. ited influence over public transportation. Roughly 70% of respondents have docu- Transit systems are often built, operated, mented, statewide transit goals. Among and maintained by local or regional agen- other findings, the survey indicated the cies that are separate from the state DOT. following: This limited influence over transit creates Most (65%) reported having quali- challenges for DOTs when setting statewide tative transit goals, while 45% re- transit goals. This digest addresses the need ported having quantitative ones. Sev- for a better understanding of current and eral agencies have a combination of best practices in statewide transit goal types. C O N T E N T S setting by state DOTs. Less than a quarter (23%) reported Summary, 1 having mode-specific transit goals. Chapter 1 Introduction, 3 Three types of transit goals stood Findings Chapter 2 Current State of the out as the most common. Ridership Practice, 4 The research team conducted a litera- (61%), transit availability (58%), and Chapter 3 Best Practices in Statewide Transit Goal ture review of statewide transit goal setting broader multimodal goals (58%) were Setting, 10 practices, reviewing long-range statewide most frequently reported. Transit Chapter 4 Continued transportation plans and statewide transit goals were least likely to address Challenges, 14 plans around the country to understand travel time and service delivery. Chapter 5 Conclusions, 15 current practices of transit goal setting. DOTs are using transit goals for var- Bibliography, 16 The research team found little literature ious purposes. Aside from helping

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guide or evaluate investment decision making, portation planning process. The research team found DOTs are relying on transit goals to guide local that several DOTs have also developed state transit agencies and/or area stakeholders. plans as part of their planning processes. These plans DOTs are primarily developing and document- go into more detail and generally involve closer col- ing their statewide transit goals as part of their laboration with transit providers. statewide long-range transportation planning State DOTs set transit goals for various reasons. process. DOTs are also frequently documenting State legislation is one motivating force. Nearly half statewide transit goals in state transit manage- of the survey respondents indicated they are using ment plans. statewide goals to fulfill legislative requirements. The DOTs are customarily tracking their transit transportation industry's shift toward a performance- goals (83%) and linking them to performance based planning approach is another reason. DOTs measures (77%). States are generally tracking are increasingly likely to set transit goals today, along their goals quarterly or annually. with objectives and performance measures by which Many states without transit goals (72%) are to monitor their progress. Limited transit funding pro- either developing them or have considered vides additional motivation for setting statewide tran- doing so. States cited increased stakeholder sit goals. Statewide goals can help target limited funds interest and broader emphasis on performance in meeting transit priorities. DOTs indicated that the measurement and improvement. process of setting statewide transit goals is just as DOTs that do not have statewide transit goals important as the goals themselves. How a DOT sets generally cited their departments' limited roles statewide transit goals is shaped by desired outcomes, in transit management. Some mentioned that the level of coordination among parties, and the their departments were undergoing reorgani- multiple stakeholders involved. All those interviewed zation. Half of those without statewide transit used extensive outreach to various stakeholders, goals have overarching multimodal goals. including non-traditional stakeholders and their part- All those respondents who directly operate ner transit providers, in developing their goals. DOTs transit indicate that they track their progress use their goals based on what motivated the setting of via statewide goals and have linked these goals the goals. For example, transit goals set because of the to performance measures. shift to performance-based planning are often likely to focus on guiding transit investments and funding Based on the literature review and survey, the allocation whereas DOTs have wider latitude in ap- research team identified a diverse group of practi- plying transit goals mandated by a state legislature. tioners that illustrates how states are setting statewide The effect of statewide transit goals is most often seen goals for transit. The research team interviewed in states where the DOT has some level of control representatives at each of the following states: over transit funding. California, Minnesota, Oregon, South Carolina, Virginia (Department of Rail and Public Trans- portation), and New Jersey (New Jersey DOT and Conclusions New Jersey Transit). The research team found that State DOTs continue to face numerous challenges state involvement in transit service varies greatly. in terms of setting statewide transit goals. Foremost Although few states directly operate transit service, is overcoming a focus on highway planning and most are heavily involved in administering funding. operation. DOTs are reluctant to set statewide transit Most DOTs have an office or division of public goals because, for the most part, they do not directly transportation or public transit that focuses on pro- operate transit and relationships with state transit viding transportation options for the traveling pub- providers often are limited. Moreover, it is as yet lic. These public transportation divisions are often unclear to many DOTs the effect that statewide tran- responsible for supporting transit around the state sit goals can have on agency investment decision through the administration of federal and state tran- making. Several DOTs noted the difficulty in setting sit funds, technical assistance, and integration of accurate and achievable goals where there are limits transit into statewide multimodal plans and projects. in available data. Transit agencies do not always pro- Statewide transit goals are frequently developed and vide current data to DOTs and without such data, set- documented as part of the long-range statewide trans- ting quantifiable transit goals is difficult. Limited or 2