PERFORMANCE MEASURES - vdot smart scale and mdot chapter 30

Virginia Department of Transportation & Maryland Department of Transportation

In recent years, there has been a shift towards performance-based planning for transportation investments.  Performance-based planning emphasizes measuring and modeling transportation indicators to better understand issues affecting travel and fund projects that reliably and holistically address these issues. This change in perspective has been driven by improved data availability and computational capacity, prompting state DOTs and regional MPOs to develop innovative approaches to comprehensively evaluating and prioritizing potential projects. 

Renaissance has played a key role in developing and implementing two prominent examples of performance-based planning processes in recent years: Virginia’s Smart Scale and Maryland’s Chapter 30 Scoring.  In each case, the state DOT has been legislatively directed to address the potential impacts of candidate transportation projects across an array of indicators, from safety to travel time savings to environmental impacts to economic development benefits.  

Renaissance has utilized multimodal accessibility to develop simplified, data-driven approaches to comparing projects based on the connectivity they provide between people and destinations and the impact they have on travel behaviors like mode choice.

Renaissance has utilized multimodal accessibility to develop simplified, data-driven approaches to comparing projects based on the connectivity they provide between people and destinations and the impact they have on travel behaviors like mode choice.

As an industry leader in multimodal accessibility analysis, Renaissance has led the development of accessibility scores supporting both states’ scoring processes.  We have provided clear, easy-to-interpret measures that are directly comparable across all travel modes and population groups.  This means the accessibility scores offer truly multimodal measures that allow diverse projects to compete for state funds while providing distinctive insight into the impacts for disadvantaged population groups, supporting an equitable distribution of benefits.  Moreover, in Maryland, we are working with MDOT to utilize accessibility-based mode choice models to estimate the degree to which each project expands travel choices in its vicinity. 

Our work in this emerging area of performance measurement has given us insight into several key aspects of developing effective scoring processes. 

  1. Technical development – The indicators to be included in a scoring process must be readily and consistently measured using available data and tools/workflows that simplify the scoring process as much as possible.  In the accessibility realm, we have researched and applied existing tools, developed custom toolkits, and created robust data management strategies and project team workflows to ensure scoring proceeds in a predictable and efficient manner. 

Renaissance developed a comprehensive project scoring workflow for Virginia’s Smart Scale accessibility scoring. The workflow addresses technical steps and interactions among several software platforms as well as user-focused review and quality-assurance steps.

Renaissance developed a comprehensive project scoring workflow for Virginia’s Smart Scale accessibility scoring. The workflow addresses technical steps and interactions among several software platforms as well as user-focused review and quality-assurance steps.

2. Metric development – In many cases, the spirit behind a measure is well understood, but the measurement itself must be carefully defined to ensure it appropriately reflects each project’s performance.  For example, in accessibility analysis, effective projects are expected to increase “access to opportunity.”  However, depending on how the measure is formulated, projects that are simply close to opportunities may score well, even if they fail to connect residents or businesses to those opportunities.  We have critically considered various accessibility score formulations and crafted measures that…  

  • give preference to projects that connect the greatest number of people to the greatest number of opportunities;  

  • equitably address regional contexts (metropolitan, small town, rural, e.g.) for fair consideration in statewide analyses; and  

  • evaluate transportation disadvantages in terms directly comparable to the general population.

Renaissance helped Maryland DOT assess the impacts of dedicated bus lanes on disadvantaged populations in Baltimore’s North Avenue Corridor.

Renaissance helped Maryland DOT assess the impacts of dedicated bus lanes on disadvantaged populations in Baltimore’s North Avenue Corridor.

3. Education and training – The advantages of performance-based planning should apply not just to prioritization processes but inform various aspects of transportation planning at the system, project, and operations levels.  To that end, we have developed user guides and delivered trainings to address knowledge gaps at the staff, manager, and executive levels, enabling accessibility scoring to expand naturally from scoring processes into other applications.  Our materials cover key accessibility concepts, technical walkthroughs, and interpretive guidance for quality assurance and proper usage of accessibility results.  Training sessions provide details appropriate to each participant’s needs and role in weaving accessibility analyses into existing processes. 

Renaissance is pleased to have long-standing and on-going relationships with VDOT/OIPI and MDOT to help them introduce fresh innovations in performance measurement and explore novel applications of multimodal accessibility analyses.