Prioritization of Public Transportation Investments

Public transportation projects compete for funding with other transportation modal projects including highways, freight, and active transportation in state, regional, and local plans and programs. These plans and programs increasingly include metrics-based prioritization methods to inform funding decisions. The prioritization methods often do not fully capture key benefits of public transportation investments, making it difficult for transit projects to compete with other modal investments. Because the demand for transportation investments far exceeds the funds available, communities need methods to prioritize transportation projects to guide decision-making. The decision-making process can be very complex, and methods that may be effective in one area may not be effective elsewhere. The research should consider the following issues: (1) There are many types of transportation projects competing for funds. Each transportation mode includes projects of different sizes, costs, and potential benefits. It can be challenging to evaluate and compare projects (both within and among modes) that expand, improve, and maintain the transportation system. A particular challenge can be evaluating projects that include benefits to multiple modes. (2) There are many sources of funds for transportation projects. Some funding sources stipulate particular use, while others offer more flexibility. The complex nature of federal, state, and local funding and unpredictable availability makes it increasingly important that transportation projects are appropriately prioritized and are positioned to take advantage of available funds. (3) Transportation investment prioritization methods can be affected by factors such as historic spending precedents or concerns about funding distribution across a region or state. Many methods do not reflect emerging policy interests around issues such as public health, equity, and resiliency. The factors included in a prioritization method influence the results; excluding factors that reflect important benefits of public transportation can lead to undervaluing of transit projects. (4) Transportation needs vary across communities. Communities vary in many dimensions including, population, density, economy, physical size, geography, climate, financial resources, number of jurisdictions, and current and planned transportation investments. Each of these characteristics affects the decision-making process pertaining to transportation investments. Consequently, it is unlikely that a single decision-making process or prioritization method for transportation projects will be suitable for all communities. Research is needed to evaluate current practices used to prioritize transportation investments, focusing on how public transportation projects are evaluated with respect to other modes, and how the evaluation methods affect the competitiveness of transit projects. The objectives of this research are to (1) present and evaluate methods and performance metrics that currently guide transportation investment decision-making and (2) propose improvements that advance the state of the practice for prioritizing public transit projects. The key audiences of this research include metropolitan planning organizations (MPOs), state departments of transportation, regional and local transportation agencies, and public transit agencies. The research should: (1) Document the state of the practice for prioritizing transit projects among other modal projects. (2) Address inherent differences in decision-making in communities of different sizes and resources that affect the prioritization of transportation investments. Identify factors that have affected the competitiveness of transit projects versus other modes in securing funding. (3) Identify benefits of public transportation that are often absent or poorly addressed in prioritization methods for transportation investment decision-making. (4) Identify key metrics that meaningfully represent the benefits of public transportation in different types of communities. (5) Provide recommendations to advance the state of the practice for prioritizing public transportation investments.   


  • English


  • Status: Proposed
  • Funding: $100000
  • Contract Numbers:

    Project H-58

  • Sponsor Organizations:

    Transit Cooperative Research Program

    Transportation Research Board
    500 Fifth Street, NW
    Washington, DC    20001

    Federal Transit Administration

    1200 New Jersey Avenue, SE
    Washington, DC  United States  20590
  • Project Managers:

    Schwager, Dianne

  • Start Date: 20191115
  • Expected Completion Date: 0
  • Actual Completion Date: 0

Subject/Index Terms

Filing Info

  • Accession Number: 01690648
  • Record Type: Research project
  • Source Agency: Transportation Research Board
  • Contract Numbers: Project H-58
  • Files: TRB, RiP
  • Created Date: Jan 7 2019 3:04PM