Good, We’ve Got the Metrics, Now Give Us the Numbers.

Gov. Timothy M. Kaine’s “Transportation Accountability Commission” has issued its final report, detailing 34 performance measures to rate the effectiveness of Virginia’s transportation system. The measures cover such topics as safety, maintenance, mobility, environmental stewardship, economic vitality, program delivery, and coordination of transportation and land use.

Compiling metrics won’t patch potholes or build new roads. But they may help guide Virginia policy makers in their decision making. Without answers to basic questions — are roads getting safer or deadlier? Is congestion getting worse or better? Are we catching up on our maintenance backlog or losing ground? Are people driving more or less? — we are fumbling in the dark.

As Commission Chairman James A. Squires said in a press release: “A set of overarching goals and performance measures … are critical to a transportation program that not only delivers high-quality projects, but the right projects.”

There isn’t anything earth-shaking in the report, but the effort was worthwhile. My only frustration: While the report recommends a set of metrics, it doesn’t provide the actual numbers. At some point, someone will have to gather and format the data. When that happens, I’ll report back to you on this blog.

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4 responses to “Good, We’ve Got the Metrics, Now Give Us the Numbers.”

  1. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    geeze… it has a certain “blather” factor if you ask me…

    How about comparing this report with the one that JLARC did.

    JLARC’s recommendations were very specific and unvarnished…

    .. and still not implemented

    this one is so non-specific and wishy-washy in it’s language that I’d be totally shocked if this thing results in anything…

    and why in the world.. did this group not least acknowledge the JLARC recommendations.. build on them.. and reinforce the fact that many of those recommendations have not been implemented…

    STARTNG with the recommendation that VDOT districts be aligned with the MSAs and MPOs.

    The Fredericksburg District runs from Stafford County to Tidewater.

    What kind of sense does that make?

  2. Anonymous Avatar

    “Mobility refers to the movement of people or goods. It assumes that “travel” means person- or ton-miles, “trip” means person- or freight-vehicle trip. It assumes that any increase in travel mileage or speed benefits society.”

    Victoria Transportation Policy Institute.

    I don’t think anyone would argue that the proposed metrics for safety and maintenance are far off.

    But then go down to Goal three and see how that measure up with one accepted definition (above).

    AS VTPI notes “transport users are mainly motorists, since most person- and ton-miles are by motor vehicle, but recognizes that some people rely on non-automobile modes, and some areas have large numbers of transit, rideshare and cycling trips.”

    Therefore, the measure of mobility ought to be a composite that includes all of those groups, and it should be weighted according to the person/miles or ton/miles that actually use the various modes.

    Furthermore, I’d suggest that cost is an issue. If we increase the cost of miles traveled faster than we increase the number of miles traveled (for any mode) then we have decreased the value of mobility.

    You ought to be able to look at each mode and determine whether mobility went up or down for that mode, and yuo should be able to look at a weighted composite and determine whehter total mobility went up or down, preferably related to cost.

    Now look at Goal 3, Objective 1. Where are the various modes? You have Public transportation right at the top, followed by HOV. You have airplanes and Marine feight.

    What happened to pedestrian cyclists, and (gasp) autmobiles? Waht about truck and train freight?

    Well Autos are sort of in there if you only count the increase in mobility that comes from a reduction in congested lane miles or hours of delay.

    Rather than just sticking to measuring mobility, which ought to be easy, what we have here is a diguised political statement that even if we ever fill it with numbers will be an incomplete and deceptive measure of mobility.


    Now think of connectivity Goal #2.

    I would guess that connectivity is the number of available transfer points between modes. Period. They sort of hit on one possibility with the number of park and ride spaces, but thats just part of connectivity.

    The other item, average travel speeds on interregional connectors is really amobility indicator and should already have been picked up in the mobility section.

    Does anyone besides me see a political component to this Metric?


    Now look at number three. Does anyone think that we can measure accessibility by considering only transit and airports?

    Sorry guys. Go back to the drawing boards, and take someone who knows how to measure things. While you are at it, give some consideration to measuring the value of things as well as the amount.

    Think of this set of metrics as a subset of a larger state government performance metric, and think how the metrics you gather here can be used by other departments, maybe with a little additional enhancements (like accessibility to government offices).

    Maybe the problem is that The Commission was composed of local government leaders, legislators, business leaders, and community leaders. It might have helped to have a couple of operations research types, system engineers, statistitcians, or scientists in there.

  3. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    re: …”The Commission was composed of local government leaders, legislators, business leaders, and community leaders.”

    I did not take the document seriously after I saw pages … used to depict the desired accident trend as a down arrow…

    A performance and metric doc uses specifics… and does not mince words or play with “down” and “up” arrows as desireable “trends”.

    I don’t know who actually wrote the doc.. it would be intersting to know who wrote the drafts..

    I much prefer JLARC to do stuff like this.. I’m not opposed to this group doing it – as long as JLARC is also involved.

    Everyone who has ever sit on a committee … knows how some of the documents actually get done… and it’s not pretty.

  4. Anonymous Avatar

    A metric, a metric.

    A strike by german train drivers cancels between 50 and 85% of scheduled local and regional trains. This caused between 2.5 and 4 million people to take to the highways. (thank god for transportation “options”, right?)

    One estimate was that the strike would cost the German economy as much as $35 million.

    An obvious question, assuming that figure is right would be, how much do the trains cost to run, rider fares and subsidies included. I don’t know the answer, but it shouldn’t be too hard to figure out.

    But let’s say the Germans are twice as efficient as Amtrak, where the subsidy is $40 per rider. Even admitting that European subsidies are higher, they also have better ridership. so call it a $20 subsidy per rider, Not including what the passenger pays.

    That would mean that if the strike caused 2.5 million to take to the roads, then the cost of subsidizing the trains to carry them would be $50,000,000, compared with the $35 million loss due to the strike.

    If that is the case (and this is only a hypothetical example) then as a taxpayer, you would hope for a strike every day.


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