Measuring the Performance of Livability Programs

Posted by Content Coordinator on Tuesday, July 30th, 2013


Livability programs are an inherently broad set of approaches intended to create communities with coordinated transportation, housing and commercial investments, with specific goals and objectives subject to local priorities and conditions. The great variety of such efforts calls to question whether and how such programs can measure their success. This research project analyzes five regional level “livability” programs to answer the following question: How should agencies measure the performance of livability programs? Within that broader question, two subsidiary questions are explored: 1) What can, and should, new livability programs learn from existing livability programs’ approaches to performance measurement? 2) To what degree are the performance measurement approaches of existing livability programs aligned to the objectives of the programs, their stakeholders, and to recommendations for good performance measurement?

A review of literature on livability programs and performance measurement techniques provided the basis to develop a framework to analyze the research questions. First, we developed a synthesized set of criteria for good performance measurement: customer focus; alignment to strategy, goals, and objectives; clarity; measurability (efficiently and accurately); balance; decision-orientation; and the ability to address key stakeholder perspectives. Next, to provide more clarity to the criterion “customer focus,” we developed a synthesized set of customer criteria for livable communities, including factors addressing economics, location, amenities, housing types, and safety.

The analysis revealed that programs commonly measure sources and uses of funds, volume of development activity, changes in land value, and jobs created. While some programs characterize the development activity based on livability criteria (e.g., percent affordable) most programs do not capture all of their customers’ livability goals in their development activity statistics. Beyond these commonalities, factors reported across programs are very diverse.

Four specific measurement types were called out by interviewees as particularly useful in supporting program decisions: delivery of project commitments (get what we funded?); the percentage of the region’s development that occurs in targeted development areas (are we developing where we want to develop?); leveraged funding (did we close the development financing gap?); and transportation access factors such as induced ridership, cost per induced rider, and bicycle and pedestrian access (did we achieve a transportation land-use link?).

Considerations for applying performance measurement to livability programs gleaned from the analysis are: 1) the structure of an agency does not dictate the focus of its measurement; 2) measuring the nature, not just the volume, of development is critical to understanding the impact of the program; 3) meaningful measurement of livability need not be costly; 4) a focus on decisions pays off; 5) reporting on both affordability and land value appreciation goals prevents measurement imbalance from leading to program imbalance; 6) performance reporting should be tailored to the many audiences of livability programs; and 7) agencies must balance measurement of quantifiable factors with subjective factors such as “quality of life.”

There is no one-size-fits-all approach to measuring livability – by its nature it is a locally defined issue with a wide range of stakeholders. The hope is that this research will help new livability programs learn from others when developing measurement strategies.

Download full report (PDF): Measuring the Performance of Livability Programs

About Mineta Transportation Institute
“The Mineta Transportation Institute (MTI) conducts research, education, and information and technology transfer, focusing on multimodal surface transportation policy and management issues. It was established by Congress in 1991 as part of the Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act (ISTEA) and was reauthorized under TEA-21 and again under SAFETEA-LU. The Institute is funded by Congress through the US Department of Transportation’s (DOT) Research and Innovative Technology Administration, by the California Legislature through the Department of Transportation (Caltrans), and by other public and private grants and donations, including grants from the US Department of Homeland Security.

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