Performance Indicators/Measures to Support Livability and Sustainability

Focus Area



Air Quality, Environmental Process




Under $99k


Under 1 year

Research Idea Scope

While many agencies use indicators to track performance in areas such as natural environment mitigation, congestion management, or safety, there is a critical and timely need for indicators that support the cross-agency collaboration and new inter-agency partnerships that will be required to deliver livability- and sustainability-driven projects and plans. Many of the current decision-making processes are derived from program-oriented performance measures that reflect an emphasis on stringently defined relationships and processes. Planning transportation investments that meet wider sustainability and livability goals requires an approach that emphasizes outcomes over procedures. However, tools to effectively connect transportation decisions with outcomes are generally lacking. Practitioners and DOTs need decision-support tools to help them demonstrate the value of transportation investments, to facilitate consensus among stakeholders, and to align their activities with policies and funding streams expected to increasingly prioritize livability and sustainability. This is particularly important as sustainability and livability are not, to date, fully represented in regulatory requirements and therefore may be undervalued during the decision-making process.

Using indicators to communicate desired outcomes can move the industry beyond broad policy generalizations and provide agencies and practitioners with an objective, unbiased language to facilitate a decision-making process that provides implementable results that are grounded in realistic expectations.  Indicators can also provide a mechanism to translate community values and stakeholder interests into language that is free from hidden agendas and technical jargon that can lead to skepticism and distrust. The objective of this research is to provide staff and management at transportation agencies a database of indicators, organized to be searchable by their applicability to livable and sustainable outcomes. The database should be developed following and extensive review of current practices in transportation and allied disciplines as well as relevant research into promising new approaches. The database should be designed to serve as a web-based resource that can be updated and maintained so it remains current.

Urgency and Payoff

This research will provide practitioners and transportation agencies with a searchable database of indicators that can be selected to align with livability and sustainability goals. The research should include adequate documentation and guidance for implementation to support adoption of indicators applicable to any phase of the decision-making process with a focus on alternative analysis (trade-off analysis)  as part of the project planning process. The tool could potentially be used to inform the development of projects, programs and partnerships that can successfully compete for grants or other funding sources targeted to livable and sustainable transportation investments. Longer term benefits anticipated include advancing the understanding of the interlinkages between transportation and environmental considerations, supporting the development of an assessment framework for comparing pre- and post-project results, and informing full cost accounting analyses.

Suggested By

Leigh Lane, Ann Hartell, Ted Mansfield, Center for Transportation and the Environment at NCSU

[email protected]