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ES-1 EXECUTIVE SUMMARY A sustainable transit agency provides environmental, social and economic benefits to the communities it serves. Transit agency efforts to quantify these benefits have focused primarily on environmental sustainability. The American Public Transportation Association (APTA) has developed guidance for transit agencies on how to use performance measures to quantify transitâs impact on environmental sustainability. APTA has yet to develop similar guidance to measure social and economic sustainability, which is the focus of this research project. This guidance document is designed as a practical tool to help transit agencies of all sizes develop and use social and economic sustainability performance measures to plan, evaluate, and report on social and economic sustainability. The document is intended to complement the APTA Recommended Practice for Social and Economic Sustainability for Transit Agencies (2018). The Recommended Practice provides a framework for approaching economic and social sustainability, along with an overview of recommended practices. However, the document does not include performance measures, which are critical to reporting progress and gauging success. APTA Social and Economic Sustainability Goals The APTA Recommended Practice for Social and Economic Sustainability for Transit Agencies (2018) identifies goals, objectives and specific recommended practices transit agencies can take to address social and/or economic sustainability. The Recommended Practice identifies six critical goal areas that frame social and economic sustainability for transit agencies: â¢ Community building and engagement â¢ Economic impact â¢ Employee workforce â¢ Financial â¢ Mobility and accessibility â¢ Safety and emergency preparedness Sustainability Performance Measures Transit agencies regularly use performance measures (sometimes referred to as performance metrics or metrics) to track progress against agency goals and objectives over time. Sustainability performance measures are developed to measure progress against sustainability goals and objectives. Sustainability includes social, environmental, and economic issues in what is often referred to as the âtriple bottom line.â Social measures reflect a transit agencyâs commitment to community development, equity, and safety; economic measures reflect a transit agencyâs contribution to economic development and operational efficiency; and environmental measures indicate a transit agencyâs progress toward protecting the environment (e.g., by reducing pollution from single-occupancy vehicles). While environmental performance measures are relatively well-established, transit agencies have generally placed less emphasis on establishing social and economic performance measures.
ES-2 Using the Recommended Practice as a guide, this project included a literature review and interviews with eight transit agency representatives to identify transit agency practices related to social and economic sustainability outcomes, including the use of performance measures and goal- setting. The research team observed that the practice of applying social and economic sustainability measures is evolving, with few standards or consistency amongst transportation agencies. Reporting on sustainability is generally driven by a desire to be responsive to a local constituency (and not compliance with a funding requirement). Furthermore, social and economic sustainability measures are generally seen as being more challenging to define and quantify compared to environmental measures. Guidance Document This Guidance Document: (1) Presents key findings from the literature review and transit agency interviews (Chapter 2) (2) Identifies a list of 57 top social and economic sustainability performance measures and 56 transit service measures selected using evaluation criteria established in collaboration with the research panel (Chapter 3) (3) Provides transit agencies with guidance on how to set goals, determine objectives, establish measures, implement and evaluate the measures, and report progress on social and economic sustainability (Chapter 4) (4) Includes a companion ExcelÂ® workbook that identifies 606 social and economic sustainability performance measures and 93 transit service performance measures that can be used by transit agencies to develop and initial list of performance measures (Social and Economic Sustainability Performance Measures Database) The majority of the social and economic sustainability performance measures were collected over the course of the literature review, with some refinements to ensure that the measure would be universally applicable (e.g., appropriate for multiple transit modes, removing references to specific transit agencies), understandable (e.g., removing jargon), inclusive (e.g., adding additional user types in order to reflect the needs of a wider group of the traveling public), specific (e.g., specifying âcapital costsâ when capital costs are implied) or meaningful (e.g., adding âby typeâ to âexpensesâ to better capture the data). Some measures were added in response to panel input and the research teamâs experience. In the ExcelÂ® database of performance measures that accompanies this research effort, performance measures have been characterized to align with APTA Recommended Practice goals and objectives, characteristics of the transit agency, the type of measure (i.e., input, process, output, or outcome), whether the measure could be used to assess environmental justice, span of control, and whether the measure was primarily social or economic-focused. The research team also identified transit service performance measures during the literature review. While transit service measures often impact social and economic sustainability, they represent measures of a transit agencyâs core missionâto provide mobility. For example, these measures include counts of annual ridership, service coverage, hours of service, travel time, vehicular capacity, and vehicle speed/delay. These measures may impact or indirectly assess social and economic outcomes, but the service measures are separate from the list of social and economic performance measures because they are more focused on mobility.
ES-3 The research team asked the research panel to identify the highest-priority performance measures through a survey format considering the following evaluation criteria: 1. Measuresâs Applicability: How applicable is the measure to transit agency operations? 2. Universal Applicability: Is the measure expected to be universally applicable to all types and sizes of transit agencies? 3. Realistic and Attainable: Is the level of effort to collect and maintain the data to support this measure reasonable considering transit agencies resources? 4. Monitoring/Implementation: Is the measure reasonable to track over time and use as a continuous process improvement benchmark? 5. Well Understood: Is the measure understandable by transit agency stakeholders and/or by standard setting organizations? A total of fifty-seven measures were identified as highest priority, representing all six goal areas included in the APTA Recommended Practice. These measures should be individually evaluated to ensure that they satisfy the transit agencyâs critical evaluation criteria. Measures should also be considered jointly to ensure that the list of performance measures is complete. Based on feedback gathered over the course of the literature review and interviews, the research team also developed guidance to fully incorporate sustainability into a performance-based planning and programming approach. The research team recommends operationalizing performance measures in five broad steps, as shown in Figure ES-1 and described below. Figure ES-1. Performance Management
ES-4 Step 1. Set goals by either incorporating social and economic sustainability goals as a subset of all goals or incorporating social and economic sustainability into existing goals. The APTA Recommended Practice on Social and Economic Sustainability for Transit Agencies (2018) provides a good starting point for both goals and objectives. Step 2. Determine social and economic sustainability objectives by identifying the specific actions that transit agencies can take to meaningfully contribute to each goal. Step 3. Establish social and economic sustainability measures to measure progress. The social and economic sustainability performance measure database provides a list of 606 measures for transit agencies to reference, including a list of top measures. Step 4. Implement and evaluate to ensure that the transit agency continues to reflect positive progress on each measure. Section 4.5 provides several key resources related to performance-based planning to assist with this effort. Step 5. Report out the transit agencyâs progress toward supporting economic and social outcomes. Sustainability also informs the way the process is conducted (indicated by the foundational âsustainability principlesâ underlying all other steps). The first time the cycle is conducted, sustainability is likely to be a stand-alone exercise, isolated to a subset of goals and measures within a larger performance management system. In later iterations of the performance management cycle, sustainability may be used to inform all aspects of performance management and be a consideration in developing all performance measures and reporting documents. The five steps should be repeated as necessary to drive continuous improvement.