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Monday, April 25, 2011

Transit Benchmarks

Mountain Line Transit in Missoula, Montana has a benchmark that a bus trip should be "no greater than 200% of automobile trip time". While I initially found the idea ridiculous, I came to recognize while the benchmark may be set low, the idea of benchmarks was an excellent idea.

A co-worker once told me that the purpose of accounting is not fairness or equity in distribution, but a technique for detecting what produces value. There are a raft of possible improvements that transit agencies can spend their funding on. Many transit agencies spend far too little on tracking their own performance, and as a result are unable to assess the success or failure of their own efforts. Without rigorous accounting, there is a danger that transit improvements will be limited to what is politically palatable, or the 'flavor of the week'. Worse still, without metrics, when program and policy efforts prove ineffective, transit agencies have little justification for cutting them when faced by an active and vocal campaign by a narrow interest group.

How good is your transit? Has it gotten better? How will you know when it does?