As attention turns to performance measures as a way to squeeze every last drop of value out of scarce transportation dollars, states are going to need to do a better job proving the efficiency and effectiveness of their programs. Trouble is, most states don’t even bother to collect the information they need to show what actually works.
Is this why so many states make questionable decisions, prioritizing highway expansion over transit, walkable streets, and bicycle facilities when trying to fight congestion? Not exclusively, but the lack of good data leaves a bigger opening for purely political considerations to dictate transportation policy. A December GAO report that found that 30 states’ transportation planning officials said that political support was of great or very great importance in selecting projects; just 11 states said the same about economic analysis.
The Pew Center on States and the Rockefeller Foundation just issued “Measuring Transportation Investments: The Road to Results,” a thorough examination of states’ transportation data-gathering capabilities. They found that many states simply don’t have the information they need to accurately evaluate and report on their own performance in the areas of safety, jobs and commerce, mobility, access, environmental stewardship and infrastructure preservation.