Prioritization of Public Transportation Investments: A Guidebook for Decision-Makers

For the Transit Cooperative Research Program (TCRP), EBP led a team developing TCRP Report 227, Prioritization of Public Transportation Investments. The guide provides practical advice for transportation agencies looking to improve their prioritization practice for public transportation projects. It focuses on methods used to prioritize transit capital projects and on cross-modal decision-making, specifically the comparison of public transit and non-transit projects.

The guide is designed to support leadership, management, and technical and planning staff at Metropolitan Planning Organizations (MPOs), State Departments of Transportation (DOTs), and public transit agencies as they increasingly use structured methods and formal criteria (quantitative and qualitative) to prioritize transit capital projects and undertake cross-modal decision-making. At the same time, the guide tackles recognized challenges associated with shifts toward more quantitative approaches, recognizing that transit projects seeking to compete for funding are often at a disadvantage because they have benefits that are either difficult to quantify or that have traditionally been inadequately addressed by methods developed with highway capacity improvement projects in mind.

One key component of this work is the recommended criteria for the prioritization of public transportation investments, including a chapter highlighting the use of equity metrics in prioritization. Another is the practical demonstration of how the implementation of recommended criteria can affect cross-modal prioritization outcomes. Because the demand for public transportation investments far exceeds the funds available, agencies need proven methods to decide where to allocate limited resources. In this environment of limited funding and tough choices, performance-based investment decision-making empowers agencies to be more accountable, transparent, and rigorous with respect to the multiple objectives of transportation investments—including both traditional traveler benefits and broader societal benefits and equity outcomes. In addition to TCRP Report 227, this research project produced a PowerPoint presentation which is available as a supplementary deliverable on the TRB site.

The guidebook is available here.