Phase II – Performance Measures

VI. Measures of Impact

Purpose and Objectives

An essential element to any analytic or evaluation procedure is the set of measures used to describe and quantify the particular issues or impacts under review. These Measures of Impact frequently referred to, as performance measures, performance indicators, or measures of effectiveness, are critical to both visualizing the problem under study and to evaluating potential solutions.

In the context of the Environmental Justice in Transportation (EJT) Toolkit, the Measures of Impact designed into the Toolkit must be capable of reflecting the broad array of concerns, impacts and potential outcomes that are likely to be encountered in environmental justice studies. Moreover, they must be appropriate to the scale of the particular study — which may range from highly localized to regional in focus – the time frame in question, and to a certain extent be within the limits of reasonably available analytic tools and data to estimate.

Under Task 2 of this FHWA work scope, our objective is to do the following:

Frame the measures of impact that will be used to quantify the concerns associated with each of the selected case study topics. The measures will be selected with the criteria that:

· They realistically reflect the central concerns
· They may be used to measure and compare both current/unaltered conditions with solution alternatives
· They can support enlightened dialogue on the topic and lead to resolution.

Concern will be with measures that allow comparison of access and safety to jobs and other activity needs, and exposure to transportation-related impacts such as traffic, safety, noise, and air pollution, both as the impact EJ vs. regular populations and across alternative planning scenarios. While the capabilities of existing data and analysis tools will be used as an initial guide in framing the measures of impact, recommendations will tend toward the most meaningful measures for the analysis and not be limited by current capabilities.

Issues and Concerns

Ultimately, the EJT Toolkit should be capable of looking at a broad range of issues and concerns that have environmental justice implications. Since the original intent of the Toolkit project was to develop a mechanism for improving the voice of disadvantaged populations in the regional planning and programming process, presumably the measures of impact should bear some identity with the goals and objectives that are addressed by the metropolitan planning process. The original Interposal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act (ISTEA) of 1991 has shaped this process with its recommendations for the adoption of various Planning Factors into the state and MPO transportation planning process. The intent of the Planning Factors was to draw into consideration the many objectives that transportation either supports or influences when framing the goals and objectives of a comprehensive transportation plan. Prior to ISTEA, all too often transportation plans, policies and spending priorities were guided by a narrow set of performance criteria and political concerns. ISTEA ushered in a new planning ethic where transportation policies, plans and programs were required to demonstrate a stronger link with economic and societal goals that transportation is used to support, including:

· Support economic vitality and competitiveness
· Safety and security for motorized and non-motorized travelers
· Increase accessibility and mobility options for people and freight
· Protect the environment, conserve energy, and improve quality of life
· Enhance connectivity and integration across modes for people and freight
· Manage existing transportation system for maximum efficiency
· Preserve the existing transportation system

Based on the ISTEA Planning Factors, metropolitan transportation plans now reflect a more comprehensive vision and understanding of the role of and impacts resulting from transportation. Correspondingly, the measures of performance have also broadened, as have the capabilities of analytic tools, data resources, and the application of this information in the planning and decision making process. Fittingly, it seems, these comprehensive transportation-planning goals should also serve as the policy framework for evaluating Environmental Justice needs and concerns in the context of both metropolitan planning as well as more perfunctory or topical issues and concerns.

The issues and concerns elicited from the Baltimore community during Phase I of the BREJT project speak to this breadth of coverage and specificity that will be required of the Toolkit and the tools and performance measures it contains. A perusal of the concerns summarized in Exhibit 1 suggests an abundance of concern in the following major areas:

· Delivery of transit service: Frequency, proximity, reliability, quality, professionalism
· Access and mobility: ability to reach jobs, health care, other needs, particularly by transit
· Funding parity: priorities in poor vs. affluent areas, bus vs. rail transit, condition of transportation infrastructure, inclusion in decision making
· Environmental: Exposure to traffic, noise, air pollution
· Quality of Life: Community health, individual health, safety

A reflection on these issues also suggests a spectrum of factors that may be contributing to the concerns that could occur at all levels of planning, funding or operations. Many of the voiced concerns may simply be the result of a change in operating policy that had more deeply reaching effects than anticipated or recognized; in this case it may be sufficient to simply reestablish the communications link between the community and the agency. In other cases, however, the problems may not be simple in nature or source, and a higher level of assessment and intervention may be required, particularly if the problem is widespread and/or is the result of shifted funding or program priorities. In such a case, it may likely be necessary to deepen the assessment and intervention to better understand the nature of the problem or to investigate alternative solutions.

Given this “hierarchy” of issues, their causes, and the potential responses, the analysis tools and the measures in the toolkit must have enough dexterity to permit an analysis which is appropriate and credible for the issue at hand, but which leaves open the option to “dig deeper” if the problem proves to be more complex or difficult to resolve with simplistic methods. Ultimately, the Toolkit will attempt to provide its users with the ability to identify the most appropriate measures and analyses to address a particular issue. Thus, the simultaneous development of the measures of performance along with the analytic tool options in the context of addressing specific issues in a case study context is the anticipated vehicle for developing this type of insight and capturing it into the Toolkit.