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Chapter 1: Introduction

Introduction

For 2 weeks in July and August 2009, a scan team from the United States visited international transportation agencies with mature performance management systems to study how these organizations demonstrate accountability to elected officials and the public. In addition, the team examined how these transportation agencies use goal setting and performance measures to manage, explain, deliver, and adjust their transportation budgets and internal activities. The following were the specific elements the scan sought to examine:

The scan team visited the following agencies:

Scan Team

The scan team was cochaired by Carlos Braceras, deputy director of the Utah Department of Transportation (DOT), and Robert Tally, Indiana Division administrator for the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA). They were accompanied by a diverse and multidisciplinary scan team:

The scanning study was conducted against a backdrop of three major U.S. transportation needs:

Those issues made the scan particularly timely and important.

Agencies Visited

The countries and transportation agencies were chosen because they have mature performance management systems that they use to manage large, complex, industrialized transportation networks. All were parliamentary democracies, which may influence the degree to which their governments can rapidly change policy for the central transportation agencies. Otherwise, the agencies visited had many similarities to U.S. transportation agencies. One strong similarity was that many of the agencies not only needed to carry out direct goals set by the central government, but they also needed to cascade those goals to many local agencies. As in the United States, many transportation services were provided by local government or private contractors.

The scan team visited the following agencies:

Swedish Road Administration—SRA is the highway agency for the Swedish national government. Sweden has the world's 15th-largest highway network. Of that, SRA is responsible for 98,400 kilometers (km) (61,000 miles (m)) of state roads. Municipalities manage 41,000 km (25,500 mi) of local routes and streets. Private persons and companies manage about 290,000 km (180,000 mi) of private roads, mainly logging routes, of which 76,100 km (47,000 mi) get state grants and are open to general traffic. The highway network spans a nation the size of California, but Sweden has only 9 million people compared to California's 36 million. Sweden stretches from the Baltic Sea to the south to well above the Arctic Circle to the north. In addition to managing highways, SRA interacts frequently with bus and rail passenger services offered in major cities such as Stockholm.

British Department for transport and highways Agency—The main British transportation agency is the Department for Transport, which oversees HA and monitors the private contractors that operate the nation's rail passenger system. The agency improves, operates, and maintains strategic roads for 51 million people in England, who live in a 50,000-square-mi (129,499-square-km) country about the size of Alabama. The Department for Transport manages policy and funding for a transportation system that includes 80,000 buses, 17 train operators, and about 4,500 mi (7,242 km) of the nation's 245,000 mi (394,289 km) of roads.

New South Wales Roads and Traffic Authority— The Australian state of New South Wales has a sprawling landscape 15 percent larger geographically than Texas. Its major city is Sydney, with its iconic bridge and opera house and a rapidly growing population. The Australian state has a population of 7 million, of which 4.4 million live in Sydney. RTA manages 17,932 km (11,142 mi) of roads and provides financial assistance to local councils to manage 18,257 km (11,344 mi) of regional roads. The agency also manages another 2,946 km (1,818 mi) of regional and local roads in unincorporated areas of New South Wales with no local councils.

Victoria Department of Transport and VicRoads—Victoria is Australia's smallest state geographically, but it is the most densely populated with 5.2 million people. Despite its size in relation to other Australian states, it is nearly as large as Montana and includes the city of Melbourne with 3.4 million people. VicRoads manages 22,250 km (13,734 mi) of public roads, or about 14 percent of the state's total, but those routes carry 82 percent of the state's highway travel. The Department of Transport is a policy and funding agency that not only manages VicRoads, but also sets policy, planning, and funding direction for the privately provided transit and rail services.

Queensland Department of Transport and Main Roads— This newly consolidated agency combined the former Queensland Transport and Department of Main Roads. Both the former agencies and the combined new one display a well-articulated strategic management framework. Queensland is Australia's fastest growing state, with a population of 4.2 million spread across a huge landmass twice the size of Texas. Queensland is a diverse state that includes the upscale Miami Beach-like Gold Coast, the Great Barrier Reef, and thousands of square miles of sparsely populated interior. The agency has 34,000 km (21,000 mi) of highways under its control out of 188,000 km (116,000 mi) in the state. It also coordinates, sets policy for, and funds several transit agencies.

New Zealand Ministry of Transport and New Zealand Transport Agency—New Zealand is a nation of only 4.2 million spread over two major islands that combined are the size of Great Britain. With its diverse terrain and relatively small population, New Zealand faces significant transportation challenges, both in sustaining its internal transportation network and shipping exports to international markets. NZTA, the main transportation agency, was created in August 2008 by merging Transit New Zealand (the highway agency) and Land Transport New Zealand (the funding and planning agency). Despite its small size, the country has been cited frequently in international studies of best practices in asset management and safety. It has 93,576 km (57,762 mi) of roads, of which NZTA manages 10,895 km (6,725 mil).

Definitions

For the purpose of the scan, the following definitions were used:

Performance Measurement—The U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) definition of performance measurement is "the ongoing monitoring and reporting of program accomplishments, particularly progress toward preestablished goals." The GAO defines a program as "any activity, project, function, or policy that has an identifiable purpose or set of objectives." FHWA defines a performance measure as "a qualitative or quantitative measure of outcomes, outputs, efficiency, or cost-effectiveness. In general, measures should be related to an organization's mission and programs, and should not merely measure one-time or short-term activities."

Performance Management—AASHTO defines performance management as an ongoing process that translates strategic goals into relevant and detailed measures and targets that, along with resources, are continuously monitored to ensure achievement of published institutional goals. Comprehensive performance management (CPM) uses that definition in all key functions of a transport agency, including policy development and long-range planning; programming and budgeting; program, project, and service delivery; system operation; and monitoring and reporting of results in a variety of forms to a variety of audiences.

 

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