National Complete Streets Coalition

Measuring Performance

Creating and using new performance measures for transportation projects and the transportation system is essential. It helps agencies ensure if they are on the right track — and helps them celebrate their new way of doing business. Performance data for all modes is not a luxury. Hard figures documenting the performance of Complete Streets implementation can become a powerful selling point for future projects and funding.

The first challenge is agreeing to a set of performance measures. Community members, leaders, and staff have varying needs and demands from the transportation system, such as mode shift, decreases in chronic disease, better air quality, retail vacancy rates, and roadway safety. Further, traditional measures can be difficult to change or adapt to multimodal needs. These challenges have meant that very few communities have tackled the creation of new performance measures in any systematic way.

Yet, there are relatively easy ways to demonstrate Complete Streets success. Communities can measure progress by simply counting the facilities they are building, such as blocks of new or repaired sidewalks; number of bus stops with shelters; miles of new bicycle facilities; and installation of pedestrian countdown signals. Communities can also account for maintenance activities such as repairs to curb ramps and repainted bicycle lanes or crosswalks. Tracking such facilities demonstrates that the community is making on-the-ground changes each year. If packaged and made publicly available at the close of each year, these numbers can add to a community’s efforts in improving education and awareness of Complete Streets.

A growing number of communities are counting the number of people walking and bicycling. Such counts have not traditionally been taken in most communities on a regular basis, though new tools and techniques have made this a more common activity today. Monitoring non-motorized data allows jurisdictions to monitor trends across the network and along key corridors.

Another simple step toward performance measurement is at the project level, where data collection can show the direct and immediate benefits of a transportation investment. Such information can be especially powerful with road conversions, which typically show an immediate reduction in speeding, a dramatic reduction in crashes and crash severity, and, sometimes, an increase in non-motorized use or even user satisfaction.

Once a community has established transportation-oriented performance measures, transportation staff can work with other agencies and departments to link them to larger goals such as long-term changes to public health, economic growth, and the physical environment. Such measures require collaboration with and leadership from other departments, sectors, and often universities.

Possible Activities

  • Track multi-modal projects by:
    • Counting facilities or miles of facilities such as sidewalks, bike lanes, and street trees,
    • Counting intersections improved by signal timing, medians, count down timers, bulb outs, and other improvements,
    • Tracking dollar amounts or percentage of funds used for each mode, and
    • On-road transit performance such as the percentage of buses running on time and average speed
  • Track (or work with another agency to track) broader community performance measures such as:
    • Air quality improvement as measured by ground-level ozone, particulate matter, carbon monoxide, sulfur dioxide, and nitrogen dioxide,
    • Health indicators such as incidence of chronic disease or rates of physical activity,
    • Housing + transportation affordability,
    • Response time of emergency responders,
    • Transit operating costs and farebox recovery ratio,
    • Economic impact, such as the decreases in vacancies, changes in revenue, and the number of new jobs created in proximity of multimodal streets and near transit.
  • Adopt or revise transportation performance measures. New performance measures may include:
    • Deaths and injuries by mode,
    • Crashes by mode and type, including ‘doorings’ and pedestrians accessing transit,
    • Mode shift, such as bike, walk and transit trips over time,
    • Percentage of children walking and bicycling to school,
    • Corridor impact analysis,
    • Travel times and delays for all modes,
    • Automobile Trips Generated (ATG),
    • Vehicle Miles Traveled (VMT) or Single Occupancy Vehicle (SOV) trip reduction, and/or
    • Multimodal Level of Service, Pedestrian Level of Service, or Bicycle Level of Service.
  • Provide regular reports to the public on the data being tracked or the agency progress on Complete Streets performance measures.
  • Changed philosophy and attitude to implement Complete Streets and stop primarily building and maintaining ‘incomplete’ streets.

Best Practices

  • Transportation departments should not be the only ones to track performance. They can collobarate with others to collect and analyze data, including the health department and public health organizations; law enforcement agencies and emergency responders; and advocacy groups, including those focused on equity.
  • Use rates, rather than straight numbers, to show changes in safety and mode shift over time.
  • Establish baseline data so as to better illustrate successes.
  • Be clear about measuring outputs (such as blocks of sidewalks built or repaired) versus outcomes (such as increases in walking rates).
  • Create metrics that are specific to community goals.

Resources

Counts

Health Impact Assessments and Environmental Audits

Performance Goals

Adopted Performance Measures

Citizen Surveys and Travel Diaries

Before and After Studies

Multimodal Level of Service (MMLOS)

Annual Reports

Trip Generation

Resources

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