As operating costs of transit escalate at faster rates than operating revenue, and as federal operating assistance (in current dollars) towards transit declines, the financial burden placed on state, regional, and local government units is becoming heavy (Hartman, et al., 1994). Therefore, public transit today operates in an environment sensitive to strategic planning and performance-measurement. But transit programs, once implemented, are rarely evaluated for outcomes on a systematic basis. Osborne and Gaebler (1992) indicate that service agencies (e.g, transit agencies, hospitals) focus on inputs instead of outcomes. “Traditional bureaucratic governments fund schools based on how many children enroll; welfare based on how many poor people are eligible; police departments based on manpower needed to fight crime.” Governments, Osborne and Gaebler assert, “pay little attention to outcomes—results”.
Over time, however, transportation services have increasingly had to deal with strategic management and to develop meaningful strategic indicators. As such, program performance assessment has become increasingly important. The Government Accounting Office (GAO, 1998) notes that government program performance assessments are of two kinds: performance measurement (which is the ongoing monitoring and reporting of program accomplishments, particularly towards pre-established goals) and program evaluation (which are studies to assess how well a program is working). While the concepts appear to be similar, there is a difference in focus in the sense that program evaluations examine a broader range of information on program performance and its context than is feasible to monitor on an ongoing basis. Uses are also different; whereas performance measurement, because of its ongoing nature, can serve as an early warning system to management and as a vehicle for improving accountability to the public, a program evaluation’s typically more in-depth examination of program performance and context allows for an overall assessment of whether the program works and identification of adjustments to improve its results.
There is no unique perspective regarding transit performance. The same service might be doing well on measures relevant to some perspectives while not so well on other measures. In fact, a Transit Cooperative Research Program (2003) report by Kittelson and Associates notes that what is important and vital in the performance and delivery of transit service depends significantly upon perspective. They identify four different perspectives—customer, community, agency, and vehicle/driver. In general, the literature suggests that performance measurement and evaluation in transit may be used for the following: as aids for assessing management performance expectations of the transit system in relation to community objectives; as mechanisms for assessing management performance and diagnosing problems, such as disproportionate cost in relation to service; as methods to allocate resources among competing transit properties, on the basis of relative cost effectiveness or other criteria; and as management and monitoring tools to facilitate continued and improved performance by management and personnel, perhaps accompanied by a program of technical assistance.
The purpose of this study is to focus on program evaluation and to assess the economic benefits of employment transportation services funded by the JARC program and matched, at 50 percent, by a variety of other public, private and non-profit sources of funding. The evaluation framework adopted in this report integrates the economic benefit approach that is typified by evaluation of social programs, welfare to work and employment training programs with that, which is used typically in the evaluation of transportation projects. While the fundamental research designs and concepts used in both approaches are similar, there are differences in the degree to which emphasis is laid on different data and concepts to be measured in the process of evaluation. The Job Access and Reverse Commute program is ultimately a social program targeted to poverty alleviation using transit as the mechanism. Yet, because it is also a transportation program, elements of traditional transportation-oriented CBA used in estimating costs and benefits should be used to realistically quantify economically and socially relevant outcomes.
Click on the link below to download the complete “Economic Benefits of Employment Transportation Services” report.
Economic Benefits Employment Transportation Report – Pages 1 thru 149
Economic Benefits Employment Transportation Services Report – Pages 150 through 269