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10 A Guidebook for Sustainability Performance Measurement for Transportation Agencies Chapter 3 Getting Organized: Setting Yourself Up for Success Before diving in to the actual tasks of defining performance measures, itâs important to make sure that you are well organized, the people you will need to get the job done are involved, and your working group and managers have a common understanding of where youâre beginning and what you want to accomplish. This chapter discusses the usefulness of a phased approach to developing sustainability performance measures and provides a few questions that will help you assess where youâre starting from. UNDERSTAND WHY YOU ARE DOING THIS Before you begin, itâs useful to define what you want to accomplish with the sustainability performance measurement system. A discussion with key managers and partners can help clarify your primary purpose(s) and what you have to work with to get there. Some questions to consider include â¢ What do you want to accomplish by using sustainability performance measurement? For example, do you want to reduce long-term costs? Build public support? Address energy consumption? Respond to regulatory requirements? Clarifying your reasons for tracking sustainability progress will help you design an effective approach. â¢ In what phase(s) of decision making do you want to use sustainability performance measurement? For example, are you most interested in integrating sustainability A phased approach to developing sustainability performance measures involves defining what you want to accomplish and understanding where you are starting from. The approach to sustainability performance measurement should evolve over time.
Getting Organized: Setting Yourself Up for Success 11 considerations into the planning process, or is your agencyâs focus mainly on operational issues? â¢ How will you use the results? Performance measures can be used to help you understand and describe what effect your activities and programs are having; assess whatâs working, not working, and why; hold staff and programs accountable; make solid decisions; and communicate the value of your work. How does your agency intend to use the results of the measures? UND ER ST AN D W HERE YO U A RE ST AR TI NG FR OM Different agencies have di ff er en t l evel s o f e xperi en ce an d d ifferent re sources available. In additio n t o i dent if ying wh y a sust ainability perfo rm ance measuremen t p ro ces s i s b eing initiated, take into account th e r esour ces you have on hand and potentia l r estr ictions an d r equirements. Some questions to consider include â¢ Is this a n ew proces s f or your agency? Measurin g s ustainability is a n ew concep t f or many agencies even if they ar e f amilia r w ith mo re tr aditi ona l p erformance measures . S om e s taff may questio n t he valu e o f i nt roducin g a ne w s et of metric s o r m ay have concerns about how th e f indings ma y b e u se d o r a ff ect thei r p rogr ams. Others will have questions about how the objectives an d m easur es ar e d ef ined . I f t hi s i s a ne w p ro ces s f or yo ur agency , i t will take time to develo p i nternal buy -in, build consensu s o n w ha t p ro ces s i s u se d t o d esig n th e m easur emen t p rogram , a nd ag re e o n w ha t w ill be th e f inal measures . â¢ Have yo u d efined goals? An agency âs curr en t l ong -ra nge or st ra tegi c p la n t yp ically ha s defined goals that prov id e a s tarting point fo r d eveloping sust ainability objectives an d Case Study Summary: Colorado Department of Transportation The Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) has taken the lead in addressing sustainability through its interagency Transportation and Environmental Resource Council (TERC). TERC has representatives of transportation agencies and resource agencies from throughout the state. TERC established a sustainability subcommittee to encourage sharing between agencies working on sustainability. The subcommittee focuses on â¢ Sharing best practices between agencies; â¢ Creating a sustainability template that addresses NEPA; â¢ Creation of a potential coordinated certification system (e.g., GreenroadsTM, GreenLITES); â¢ Attempting to create a sustainability policy that can be adopted by all members; and â¢ Developing performance measures, potentially a statewide baseline. In addressing sustainability through the TERC, the aim is not to define sustainable transportation, but rather to get a consensus on what certain common sustainability principles are and how they can be applied in the transportation sector.
12 A Guidebook for Sustainability Performance Measurement for Transportation Agencies measures. These goals will need to be reassessed to ensure that they address the sustainability principles. â¢ Are there external requirements? Some agencies are required to develop sustainability performance measurement programs to meet legislative or executive requirements set at the state or local levels. These agencies need to ensure that the approach they design meets external requirements while supporting the agencyâs goals and management processes. â¢ What partners are you working with? Defining your sustainability goals and objectives requires a collaborative approachâdrawing on partners from other disciplines that bring their knowledge and perspectives to the table. Who you engage in the process of developing your sustainability measurement approach will depend on the focus of your sustainability measurement program. â¢ Are you integrating this into an existing performance measurement process? Many agencies already have a performance measurement system for some aspects of their business operation. Typical measures have focused on system performance, facility levels of service, incident frequency, and so forth. In order to expedite data collection, coordinate staff efforts, and promote a comprehensive view of agency performance, it can be most effective to integrate your sustainability performance measurement approach into your agencyâs existing process. However, some agencies choose to manage their sustainability assessment as a parallel activity, depending on their specific objectives. Case Study Summary: California Department of Transportation The California legislature has passed a set of bills that have required agencies to consider topics correlated with sustainability. Much of the California Department of Transportationâs (Caltrans) work related to sustainability is in response to this legislation. â¢ Assembly Bill 32: Global Warming Solutions Act (AB32) â Signed in 2006, this bill set the 2020 greenhouse gas emissions bill into law. The Air Resources Board (ARB) was charged with developing actions to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. The goal is to reach 1990 levels by 2020 and 80% of 1990 levels by 2050. â¢ State Bill 375 â Signed into law in September 2008, this bill furthers the GHG-related activities proposed in AB32. Caltrans expects to see performance measures come out of this bill. The bill addresses three areas: - The ARB must develop regional emission reduction targets for each of the 18 MPO areas. - Each MPO is required to develop plans to meet its GHG reduction target. - The California Environmental Quality Act requirements are streamlined for specific residential and mixed-use developments. â¢ State Bill 391 â Signed into law in March 2009, this bill requires Caltrans to prepare a state plan similar to the regional blueprints. Specifically, the bill must address how the state will reduce GHG emissions to 1990 levels by 2020 and provide a plan to outline the multimodal transportation system needed to achieve the AB32 reductions.
Getting Organized: Setting Yourself Up for Success 13 PHASING IN A PERFORMANCE MEASUREMENT APPROACH Start with what you have. A comprehensive approach to sustainability performance measurement and management evolves over time as your agency builds understanding of how your work contributes to sustainability, as staff awareness of sustainability concerns grows, and as your agency undertakes new initiatives to promote sustainability. Focusing on a few key objectives and measures and adding additional measures over time can be an effective way to begin. Some measures of sustainability can be based on data your agency is already collecting; in fact, one data set may support measurement of multiple objectives. As your measurement approach takes shape, you can identify gaps in information and add additional measures or collect different types of data. â¢ What data do you have available? An inventory of existing data sources is an important step to assess the types of information that your agency already has. While in some cases you may decide to collect new data, often the data you have at hand can be used to support many of the sustainability measures you define. â¢ How much/how soon? A sustainability performance measurement program needs to be sustainable. A well-designed approach to measuring sustainability will support and inform your agencyâs work without placing unnecessary burdens on your staff or budget. As you design your performance measurement system, keep in mind that the approach needs to be useful, feasible, and manageable over time. â¢ Are you ready to do this? Having organizational support and a strong team is essential to developing an effective performance measurement program. Senior management needs to endorse the development of sustainability performance measures and provide clear direction on the purpose(s) for which the measures will be used. A working group could be established that has a clear mandate, schedule, and resources required to do the job, with an understanding of the approval process that will be used to review and accept its recommendations. You may want to include external partners and stakeholders directly on the working group and/or establish a process through which the group can get ideas and input as it goes along. Case Study Summary: Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments The Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments (COG) is a regional organization of 21 governments that surround the nationâs capital. The National Capital Region Transportation Planning Board is part of COG and is the federally designated MPO for the Washington, DC, region. At COG, explicit incorporation of the term âsustainabilityâ into its programs is in the beginning stages. Inclusion of sustainability terminology in the Region Forward report (a policy study that outlines desirable attributes for the Washington region) signals that COGâs leaders accept the concepts embodied by sustainability. Development of the report was guided by a group of COG stakeholders called the Greater Washington 2050 Coalition, which was established in 2008 by COG to build agreement among its members about a long-term vision for tackling issues of growth, transportation, and the environment. The coalition is composed of public officials and business, civic, and environmental leaders from across the region.