In its final section on building better transportation systems in an era of fiscal austerity, “The Innovative DOT” manual tackles the issue of how to improve internal DOT processes. The chapter makes a number of useful points but the one that stands out in a Virginia context is this: “Define acceptable and measurable goals, and identify the needed measurement tools.”
That point hits home because the Virginia Department of Transportation and the Secretariat of Transportation already have initiatives underway for measuring goals, and the General Assembly is considering legislation that would expand upon them. The focus has been mainly on congestion, safety and the economy. This is a good time to discuss what else we should be measuring.
“The Innovative DOT” suggests that performance metrics might include the following:
Employment and commerce. DOTs should create a database where local governments and employers can report on business expansion, new employment and changes in economic output directly related to a state transportation investment. Here in Virginia, the ideal entity to supply that data would be the Virginia Economic Development Partnership, which keeps track of major business expansions around the state.
Equity of access. There’s more to surface transportation than cars and trucks. DOTs should measure public transit and non-motorized transportation (a fancy way of referring to pedestrians and bicycles).
Environment. Performance measures can include fuel usage (which generates air pollution and greenhouse gases) and impact on ecological systems such as wetlands.
Community preservation. Projects might be measured for their impact on the character of a community, historic properties and property values.
I would argue that property values may be the single-most important metric of all, even more than congestion and safety. As the old saw goes, “location, location, location” is a prime determinant of property values, and transportation is a prime determinant of location. Over time, highway and transit projects can create or destroy billions of dollars of economic value. Impact on property values may be hard to measure, but without it, any cost-benefit accounting for transportation investment is incomplete.
— JABThere are currently no comments highlighted.