How are we doing? – Transit tough to track

(Editor’s note:  The N.C. Progress Board, a group created by state lawmakers to track trends in North Carolina and set goals for the state, issued its first report in December 2001.)

(Each week, the Philanthropy Journal spotlights an issue examined in the report.  The goals, targets and analysis below are those of the Progress Board.)

It will not be easy to develop strategic performance measures for transportation in our state. 

Transportation efficiency, for example, is difficult to measure, especially on a statewide basis.

The number of vehicle-miles traveled per person is relatively easy to track, but it provides only a crude measure of efficiency, and does not adequately account for important differences among the states in population density and historical development patterns.

Nevertheless, a strategic measure is needed to help ensure that transportation funds are spent on the most critically needed project,s and per-capita vehicle-miles traveled provide a useful starting point.

At the very least, measuring per-capita vehicle-miles traveled could encourage policymakers to consider the interrelationships among transportation funding decisions, growth and development patterns and environmental impacts.

Mass transit service may be measured by urban mass transit system carrying capacity or usage.

Carrying capacity reflects the public investment in mass transit service, while actual passenger usage may provide a better indication of demand.

Comparable state data on carrying capacity is more readily available than comparable state data on transit passenger miles per capita.

Similarly, air service may be measured by per capita state and local air transport spending or actual passenger or freight data.

To the extent that statewide data is readily available, originating passenger boardings or the value of freight tonnage would provide more useful indicators of air service than spending levels.

However, comparative state data on spending levels were more readily available at the time this report was prepared.

The state Department of Transportation is working on a statewide transportation plan.

An important part of this planning process is to develop strategic performance criteria and measures for the system.

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