Office of Operations
21st Century Operations Using 21st Century Technologies

Operation Performance Management Primer: From Performance Measures to Performance Management

Chapter 2. Relationship of Operations Performance Measures and Management to Transportation Performance Management and Performance Based Planning and Programming


Before further defining what OPMM is, it is important to relate OPMM to the related principles of TPM and Performance-Based Planning and Programming (PBPP), and Planning for Operations, both of which provide a broad framework for developing and using performance measures as the basis for transportation investment decisions. While the general principles are the same, OPMM is specifically focused on providing improved mobility and trip reliability by applying TSMO strategies. This chapter explains the principles of transportation performance management and provides examples of the application of these principles.

Why Undertake Transportation Performance Management?

TPM is a strategic approach that uses system information to make investment and policy decisions to achieve performance goals.1 The reason TPM is a worthwhile practice is because, when implemented, it can lead to improved transportation system performance. TPM achieves this by helping transportation agencies determine what results (strategic goals) are to be pursued, then guiding investments to achieve those results using information from past performance levels and forecasted conditions to select the best investments, routinely measuring progress toward those strategic goals, and then using those progress reports to make adjustments in planned expenditures to more effectively allocate available resources to meet the adopted performance goals. TPM is grounded in sound data management, usability, and analysis as well as in effective communication and collaboration with internal and external stakeholders.

The TPM Guidebook articulates some benefits of implementing TPM practices:

  • Creation of Unifying Focus for Agency: TPM creates a unified focus for an agency by clearly communicating “where do we want to go.” TPM achieves this through connected goals and objectives that reflect what the public and stakeholders expect from the agency, which in turn helps agency staff to link transportation investments to what the public cares about.
  • Prioritization of Investments Based on Performance Needs: Focusing transportation investments on performance, both past and predicted future performance, allows agencies to effectively use limited resources. TPM practices are rooted in data-driven decisionmaking which enables agencies to prioritize investments based on observed performance needs.
  • Linking Funding Requests to System Performance: Data on system performance can be used to articulate to decisionmakers the impact of increasing or decreasing funding levels.
  • Communication of the Benefits from Transportation Performance: Performance data enables agencies to communicate the outcomes of investment decisions to external stakeholders. In turn, this helps agencies and external stakeholders engage in a more productive dialogue on what performance outcomes are desired and the necessary strategies to achieve those outcomes.
  • Fulfillment of Legislative Requirements: Employing TPM practices will assist agencies in implementing TPM-related regulatory requirements as mandated in the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act.

Transportation Performance Management Principles

OPMM is strongly related to the principles of TPM, which has been broadly applied to many transportation agency functions, such as the management of physical infrastructure and assets. In recent years, State DOTs have begun to recognize the need to support decisions—both large decisions about major projects or initiatives and smaller everyday decisions—with improved data and analysis. The combination of flat or declining revenues with equal or greater demand from customers for quality service has caused agencies to turn to new methods to improve efficiency. TPM provides a framework that can help transportation agencies set realistic goals, focus on the most important challenges, and improve efficiency.

All State DOTs collect substantial amounts of data, and many State DOTs also already calculate performance measures. In the last several years, however, there has been a shift from performance measurement to performance management. Performance measurement is simply reporting how the transportation system is functioning. Performance management uses measurement as a foundation, but extends it by carefully and strategically selecting measures, setting targets, reporting measures, evaluating past investments, and most importantly, using this information to shape decisions. Figure 1 provides a broad outline of the functions in the OPMM process.

Reflecting the importance of TPM, the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act (MAP‑21) includes a series of requirements for States to report performance in areas, including safety, pavements, bridges, freight, mobile source emissions, and congestion.2 MAP‑21 is a fundamental shift in Federal transportation funding by requiring State DOTs to set targets and to report on the performance progress toward the targets. MAP‑21> is a significant step toward conducting TPM, but many other functions should be fulfilled before a complete TPM process is in-place at transportation agencies.

A flow chart showing the general process steps in Operations Performance Measures and Management.

Figure 1. Flow chart. General features of operations performance measures and management.
(Source: Federal Highway Administration.)

The principles of TPM are reflected in its 10 distinct components. These include the following:

  1. Strategic Direction.
  2. Target Setting.
  3. Performance-Based Planning.
  4. Performance-Based Programming.
  5. Monitoring and Adjustment.
  6. Reporting and Communication.
  7. Organization and Culture.
  8. External Collaboration and Coordination.
  9. Data Management.
  10. Data Usability and Analysis.
  11. Strategic Direction.
  12. Target Setting.
  13. Performance-Based Planning.
  14. Performance-Based Programming.
  15. Monitoring and Adjustment.
  16. Reporting and Communication.
  17. Organization and Culture.
  18. External Collaboration and Coordination.
  19. Data Management.
  20. Data Usability and Analysis.

Strategic Direction (Component 1) establishes an agency’s direction through well-defined goals and objectives, and enables assessment of the agency’s progress towards meeting goals by defining a set of aligned performance measures. It is the critical first step in the TPM process and the foundation upon which all performance management rests. To be effective, the Strategic Direction should be integrated into a transportation agency’s long-range transportation plan (LRTP) and related documents.

Target setting (Component 2) is the use of baseline data, information on possible strategies, resource constraints, and forecasting tools to collaboratively establish a quantifiable level of performance the agency wants to achieve within a specific timeframe. Importantly, target setting should be evidence based and data driven. Targets make the link between investment decisions and performance expectations as established in the Strategic Direction. In addition, targets help bring transparency to the transportation decisionmaking process.

Performance-Based Planning (Component 3) is the use of agency goals and objectives and performance trends to drive development of strategies and priorities in the LRTP and other performance-based plans and processes. The resulting planning documents become the blueprint for how an agency intends to achieve its desired performance outcomes.

Performance-Based Programming (Component 4) is the use of strategies and priorities to guide the allocation of resources to projects that are selected to achieve goals, objectives, and targets. Performance-Based Programming establishes clear linkages between investments made and expected outputs and outcomes.

Monitoring and Adjustment (Component 5) emphasizes that what agencies do with performance information distinguishes TPM from performance measurement. Management is distinguished from measurement in that upon measuring performance, a management framework insists that this information be fed back into the framework in order to adjust programming decisions. In other words, performance management encourages agencies to actively use information gained from monitoring performance data to obtain key insights into the effectiveness of decisions and identify where adjustments in programming need to be made.

Reporting and Communication (Component 6) is the use of products, techniques, and processes to communicate performance information to different audiences for maximum impact. Reporting increases accountability and transparency to external stakeholders and helps explain to both agency staff and external stakeholders how TPM is driving a data-driven approach to decisionmaking, and why changes to previously developed plans need to occur in order to meet the strategic goals adopted by the agency.

Organization and Culture (Component 7) refers to the institutionalization of a TPM culture within the agency, as evidenced by leadership support, employee buy-in, and embedded organizational structures and processes that support TPM.

External Collaboration and Coordination (Component 8) refers to the established processes to collaborate and coordinate with agency partners and stakeholders on planning/visioning, target setting, programming, data sharing, and reporting. External collaboration allows agencies to leverage partner resources and capabilities, as well as increase understanding of how activities impact and are impacted by external factors.

Data Management (Component 9) encompasses a set of coordinated activities for maximizing the value of data to an organization. It includes data collection, creation, processing, storage, backup, organization, documentation, protection, integration, dissemination, archiving, and disposal. The data management effort creates, organizes, and makes available the data resources needed for the final component.

Data Usability and Analysis (Component 10) takes the valuable data sets from the previous component and ensures those data are accessible and usable by the staff and stakeholders that need them. It also ensures individuals have the necessary analysis capabilities available to support both the production of the performance reports identified in Component 6 and the analytical tools needed to describe the value of alternative projects, plans, and strategies that are under consideration for achieving the desired strategic goals. While many agencies have a wealth of data, those data are often disorganized or cannot be analyzed effectively to produce useful information to support target setting, monitoring, project selection, decisionmaking, or other TPM practices.3

Transportation Performance Management Examples

There are numerous examples of agencies that implemented TPM strategies aimed at improving results in one or more performance areas. This section of the report highlights a few examples from around the country. Examples include the Metro Regional Centerline Collaborative (MRCC) in the Minneapolis-St. Paul region, the Pennsylvania DOT’s (PennDOT) bridge report card, and the Colorado Department of Transportation’s (CDOT) I‑70 West Traffic Management Program.

The MRCC is a joint collaborative project among the seven counties that comprise the Metropolitan Council MPO region to develop a road centerline data model and dataset to meet the core business needs of local governments and regional interests.4 The goal of the MRCC is to create and maintain a locally sourced road centerline dataset that can be used to meet the needs of local, regional, and State partner agencies. The core uses of the data include vehicular routing, emergency response, and the cartographic representation of road features, including pavement conditions, among others. The MRCC is a good example of the External Collaboration component of TPM as well as the pavement and system performance TPM areas.

The PennDOT publishes an annual report card on the condition of bridges throughout the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.5 The report documents the number of bridges classified as structurally deficient and/or functionally obsolete, the average age of bridges, and weight restrictions, among others. In addition, the report examines the resilience of the Commonwealth’s bridges by accounting for the number of fracture critical bridges (i.e., bridges with at least one member whose failure would cause a significant portion of the bridge or the entire bridge to collapse). The bridge report card concludes with recommendations for improving bridge conditions. Overall, the PennDOT bridge report card provides an illustrative example of the performance-based planning and the reporting and communication components of TPM.

CDOT deploys a number of management strategies for improving the safety and reliability of travel on the I‑70 West corridor that are exemplary of the monitoring and adjustment component of traffic management. During the winter months, adverse weather and incidents caused by weather conditions cause travelers on this corridor to experience significant delays. To improve operations, CDOT uses a number of traffic control measures such as ramp management, snowplow escorts, quick clearance of traffic incidents, real-time traveler information, and commercial vehicle staging to maintain traffic flows through the Eisenhower Tunnel. Snowplow escorts involve short holds of traffic to allow CDOT snowplows to lead an escort of traffic with the Colorado State Patrol up steep mountain passes in adverse conditions. This allows for traffic to travel on freshly treated roads at a safe, controlled speed that helps reduce the occurrence of weather-related crashes. Commercial vehicle staging activities include, when conditions are appropriate, closing I‑70 to commercial vehicles when road conditions and traffic volumes are such that a public safety emergency is likely and imminent.

Relationship to Performance-Based Planning and Programming

PBPP refers to the application of performance management within the planning and programming processes of transportation agencies to achieve desired performance outcomes for the multimodal transportation system. This includes a range of activities and products undertaken by a transportation agency together with other agencies and stakeholders.6

The functions of OPMM shown back in figure 1 are hallmarks of PBPP. The Performance-Based Planning and Programming Guidebook identifies the functions listed below.7

Strategic Direction (What is the agency’s vision for meeting its mission?)—In the transportation planning process, strategic direction is based upon a vision for the future, as articulated by the public and stakeholders. PBPP includes:

  • Goals and Objectives—Stemming from a State’s or region’s vision, goals address key desired outcomes, and supporting objectives (specific, measurable statements that support achievement of goals) play a key role in shaping planning priorities.
  • Performance Measures—Performance measures support objectives and serve as a basis for comparing alternative improvement strategies (investment and policy approaches) and for tracking results over time.
  • Planning Analysis (How are we going to get there?)—Driven by data on performance, along with public involvement and policy considerations, agencies conduct analysis in order to develop investment and policy priorities.
    • Identify Trends and Targets—Preferred trends (direction of results) or targets (specific levels of performance desired to be achieved within a certain timeframe) are established for each measure to provide a basis for comparing alternative packages of strategies. This step relies upon baseline data on past trends, tools to forecast future performance, and information on possible strategies, available funding, and other constraints.
    • Identify Strategies and Analyze Alternatives—Performance measures are used to assess strategies and to prioritize options. Scenario analysis may be used to compare alternative packages of strategies, to consider alternative funding levels, or to explore what level of funding would be required to achieve a certain level of performance.
    • Develop Investment Priorities—Packages of strategies for the LRTP are selected that support attainment of targets, considering tradeoffs between different goal areas, as well as policy priorities.
  • Programming (What improvement projects will help to achieve the stated goals and objectives?)—Programming involves selecting specific investments to include in an agency capital plan and/or in a Transportation Improvement Program or Statewide Transportation Improvement Programs (STIP). In a PBPP approach, programming decisions are made based on their ability to support attainment of performance targets or contribute to desired trends, and account for a range of factors.
  • Implementation and Evaluation (How well did the completed projects perform?)—These activities occur throughout implementation on an ongoing basis, and include:
    • Monitoring—Gathering information on actual conditions.
    • Evaluation—Conducting analysis to understand to what extent implemented strategies have been effective.
    • Reporting—Communicating information about system performance and the effectiveness of plans and programs to policy-makers, stakeholders, and the public.
  • Performance measurement is at the core of PBPP and it is also a crucial feature of OPMM. TSMO improvements’ impacts on the transportation system can be captured through assessing roadways performance, especially in terms of travel time reliability. To assess the performance of the transportation system, agencies should select measures and identify operational data that need to be acquired to undertake a comparable evaluation. Performance measures helps to clarify the definition of goals, monitor or track performance over time, and assess the effectiveness of projects and strategies.

The Performance-Based Planning and Programming Guidebook recommends following factors to consider in selecting measures:8

  • Does it represent a key concern?
  • Is it clear?
  • Are data available?
  • Can it be forecasted?
  • Is the measure something the agency and its investments can influence?
  • Is the measure meaningful for the types of services or area?
  • Is improvement direction clear?

For instance, the City of Baltimore, MD, optimized near 200 traffic signals along 9 arterials to reduce delay and improve travel time for motorists commuting to and from downtown Baltimore City. They defined following performance measures to evaluate project performance results:

  • Vehicle Delay.
  • Number of Stops.
  • Fuel Consumption.
  • Carbon Monoxide Emissions.
  • Nitrous Oxide Emissions.

The Michigan DOT uses the dynamic late lane merge system, often called a “zipper merge,” to help reduce delays in high-traffic work zones. In order to evaluate their progress, they used the following performance measures:

  • Average Travel Time.
  • Average Travel Speed.
  • Average Delay.

Correlation to Planning For Operations

Planning for operations is a joint effort between planners and operators to support improved regional transportation system management and operations. Planning for operations in the metropolitan transportation planning process means developing operations objectives to direct the consideration of operational performance during the planning process and incorporating operations solutions into investment decisions that support the operations objectives. This approach ensures that operations needs are addressed in regional planning and investment decisions.9

Planning for Operations is an objectives-driven, performance-based process, and thus embodies the major attributes of TPM generally and OPMM specifically. It strives to integrate consideration of operations strategies into each step of the transportation planning process, including long-range studies and short-range plans. Practically speaking, the success of Planning for Operations is indicted by the inclusion—or at least the consideration of—operations strategies in planning documents and processes.

Traditionally, transportation planning and transportation system operations have been largely independent activities. While planners focus on long-range transportation investments, operators are typically more concerned with addressing immediate system needs such as incident response, traffic control, and work zone management. Planning for Operations connects these two vital components of transportation and integrates operations considerations into the planning process. It needs collaboration among and within various transportation agencies (e.g., transit agencies, State DOTs, toll authorities) as well as local governments.10

More specifically, planning for operations integrates TSMO into the transportation planning process for the purpose of improving regional transportation system efficiency, reliability, and options. TSMO strategies are programs, projects, or services designed to get the safest and most efficient use out of existing and planned infrastructure.11, 12 Often, TSMO strategies allow transportation agencies to improve and/or maintain performance levels without the high cost and time needed to expand capacity.

OPMM is related to the Planning for Operations approach because both represent “performance-based” strategies for transportation decisionmaking. Rather than focusing on projects and investment plans first and then gauging their impacts on performance later, the planning for operations approach first develops objectives for transportation system performance and then uses performance measures and targets as a basis for identifying solutions and developing investment strategies. In this manner, OPMM and Planning for Operations are linked by their focus on performance and outcomes.

OPMM fits seamlessly into the Planning for Operations process. As part of the strategic planning process, planning goals and objectives should coincide with those of OPMM. For example, if a planning goal is to reduce highway congestion, then operations goals and objectives should be formulated around that goal. Further, the data used for OPMM can also be used for Planning for Operations. Figure 2 shows an example of how general planning goals filter down to specific objectives for operations.

There are 10 components, each described in the text and are organized into major functions as follows: Strategic Direction, Target Setting, Performance Based Planning, Performance-Based Programming, Reporting and Communications, Monitoring and Adjustment.

Figure 2. Diagram. Operations performance measures and management and the strategic planning process.
(Source: Federal Highway Administration.)

1 Federal Highway Administration. (no date). “TPM Guidebook.” Washington, D.C. Last accessed April 7, 2022. [Return to note 1]

2 23 United States Code (U.S.C.) 150(d)(1). “National goals and performance management measures,” “112th Congress Public Law 141.” Last accessed April 7, 2022. [Return to note 2]

3 Federal Highway Administration. (no date). “TPM Guidebook.” Washington, D.C. Last accessed April 7, 2022. [Return to note 3]

4 MetroGIS. (2022). “Centerline Collaborative.” St. Paul, MN. Last accessed April 7, 2022. [Return to note 4]

5 Pennsylvania Department of Transportation. (no date). “Report Card for Pennsylvania’s Infrastructure, Bridges.” Harrisburg, PA. Last accessed April 7, 2022. [Return to note 5]

6 Grant, M., D’Ignazio, J., Bond, A., McKeeman, A. (2013). Performance-Based Planning and Programming Guidebook. Report No. FHWAHEP‑13‑041, Federal Highway Administration, Washington D.C. Last accessed April 7, 2022. [Return to note 6]

7 Performance-Based Planning and Programming Guidebook, FHWAHEP‑13‑041. [Return to note 7]

8 Federal Highway Administration. (2013). Performance-Based Planning and Programming Guidebook, FHWAHEP‑13‑041. [Return to note 8]

9 Grant, M., Bauer, J., Plaskon, T., and Mason, J. (2010). Advancing Metropolitan Planning for Operations: An Objectives-Driven, Performance-Based Approach: A Guidebook. Report No. DTFH61-06-D-00005, Federal Highway Administration, Washington, D.C. Last accessed April 7, 2022. [Return to note 9]

10 Federal Highway Administration. (no date). “About Organizing and Planning for Operations.” Washington, D.C. Last accessed April 7, 2022. [Return to note 10]

11 Federal Highway Administration. (no date). “Transportation Systems Management and Operations (TSMO) Strategies.” Washington, D.C. Last accessed April 7, 2022. [Return to note 11]

12 Grant, M., Noyes, P., Oluyede, L., Bauer, J. (2017). Developing and Sustaining a Transportation Systems Management and Operations Mission for Your Organization, A Primer for Program Planning. Report No. FHWAHOP‑17‑017, Federal Highway Administration, Washington, D.C. Last accessed April 7, 2022. [Return to note 12]