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Transit Service Evaluation Standards (2019)

Chapter: Summary

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Suggested Citation:"Summary." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2019. Transit Service Evaluation Standards. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25446.
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Suggested Citation:"Summary." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2019. Transit Service Evaluation Standards. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25446.
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1 Beginning in the 1970s, transit agencies have developed and used service evaluation standards to measure their performance, identify trends, and conduct peer comparisons with other agencies. This synthesis report addresses the service evaluation process, from the selection of appropriate metrics through development of service evaluation standards and data collection and analysis to the identification of actions to improve service and imple- mentation. The purpose is to document effective practices in the development and use of service evaluation standards. The literature review traces the history of transit performance evaluation. Survey responses from transit agencies and case examples identify and assess how performance metrics and standards are used throughout all levels of the organization to determine service delivery. Fifty-one completed responses were received from the 59 agencies in the survey, a response rate of 86%. The survey results address the process of defining or updating per- formance standards, data sources, data collection protocols, priorities among performance measures, use of standards in making service decisions, responsibility for data analysis and assessment, unintended consequences, agency assessments of the performance evaluation process, and lessons learned. Case examples are included to provide additional details on procedures, challenges, lessons learned, and keys to success. The six case example cities and agencies are • Boston, Massachusetts: Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority; • Corpus Christi, Texas: Corpus Christi Regional Transportation Authority; • Denver, Colorado: Denver Regional Transportation District; • Modesto, California: Modesto Area Express; • Seattle, Washington: King County Metro; and • West Palm Beach, Florida: PalmTran. Synthesis findings are summarized below in the areas of satisfaction with service evalua- tion standards, performance metrics, the evaluation process, critical support factors, and emerging issues. Satisfaction with Service Evaluation Standards Transit agencies are generally pleased with their efforts to design and apply service evalu- ation standards. A majority of respondents rated their actions as either “very successful” (22%) or “somewhat successful” (44%). Midsized agencies (75 to 299 vehicles) were more likely to rate their efforts as “very successful,” large agencies (300 or more vehicles) as “somewhat successful,” and small agencies (fewer than 75 vehicles) as “neutral” compared with the overall results. S U M M A R Y Transit Service Evaluation Standards

2 Transit Service Evaluation Standards Benefits of service evaluation standards include a transparent rationale for service changes and an objective, data-based framework for analysis. Drawbacks include obtaining buy-in by the board and others (with a related and ongoing need for education), striking a balance between rigid application of standards and flexibility, and managing a complex and time- consuming process with limited staff. Performance Metrics The most frequently used metrics addressed ridership and productivity (boardings per revenue hour), financial performance (cost per revenue hour or per boarding; operating revenue per operating cost), service quality, service availability, and safety. Respondents stressed the wisdom of only using metrics that relate to the agency’s strategic plan or core mission and the need to keep metrics simple, broad, and few in number. Data availability is not sufficient to guarantee that its analysis will bring value. Selecting metrics that can be measured without spending excessive staff time in collecting, cleaning, and analyzing data is a key consideration. Tables in the literature review and a summary table in Chapter 5 trace the evolution of service standards from the 1970s to today. Service Evaluation Process The goal was to develop a transparent, data-driven process to evaluate transit service. Basing performance standards on the agency mission and goals is a sound strategy. Designing standards as guidelines, not hard and fast rules, provides flexibility in the application of the standards. At the same time, it is important to link problem-solving actions to poor performance on a specific standard. These may seem contradictory, but the ultimate purpose of developing and using standards is to improve service. Maintaining a focus on the evaluation process and potential actions was a high-level suggestion from multiple agencies. The majority of respondents reported updates to their performance standards or measures within the past 5 years, typically by redefining metrics or the level of acceptable performance. Critical Support Factors Two elements were found to be critical in performance evaluation: support from agency leadership and the board or governing body and ongoing communication and education within the organization and with stakeholders, decision-makers, and the public. Emerging Trends There is an emerging trend among transit agencies toward service evaluation focused on the passenger experience by using metrics that address the customer experience (e.g., wait time) as opposed to transit operations (e.g., actual versus scheduled arrival time). This trend is reflected in the literature review by several recent studies oriented toward customer satisfaction. A few transit agencies are creating dedicated departments responsible for performance evaluation. This is sometimes done in a broader context of continuous performance improvement through collaborative team-based efforts. As noted in one of the case examples: without a continuous process improvement, all an agency has is a scorecard.

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TRB’s Transit Cooperative Research Program (TCRP) Synthesis 139: Transit Service Evaluation Standards provides an overview of the purpose, use, and application of performance measures, service evaluation standards, and data collection methods at North American transit agencies.

The report addresses the service evaluation process, from the selection of appropriate metrics through development of service evaluation standards and data collection and analysis to the identification of actions to improve service and implementation.

The report also documents effective practices in the development and use of service evaluation standards. The report includes an analysis of the state of the practice of the service evaluation process in agencies of different sizes, geographic locations, and modes.

Appendix D contains performance evaluation standards and guidelines provided by 23 agencies.

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