Quantitative Approaches for Project Prioritization: A Puget Sound Case Study

National Academies - TRB: SHRP2 C18B

Transportation projects in major metropolitan regions can vary widely in the types of benefits they provide and in the scales of those benefits. Travel forecasting models and related procedures can provide reasonable estimates of those benefits and many of the benefits can be distilled into equivalent dollar benefits using consumer surplus or other valuation approaches. In theory, those methods could be used to prioritize projects for funding consideration. However, simply choosing projects that provide the greatest net economic benefits may not result in a mix of projects that most effectively accomplishes broad regional goals. This paper describes an approach to project prioritization that was developed to support stakeholder-based weighting of multiple goals and, for each goal, multiple measures. The approach uses the analytic hierarchy approach to develop weights for each goal and a conjoint-based method to estimate stakeholder weights for each measure.

The approach was applied as part of the Puget Sound Regional Council’s Transportation 2040 process and achieves the goals in VISION 2040—the long range land use plan. Weighting exercises were conducted with two stakeholder groups and the results were applied to a set of proposed ferry, rail, highway and local road projects. This paper describes the details of this case study and provides observations and conclusions from the work. The principal findings of the experiment were that statistically robust modeling conducted in real-time during planning committee meetings can improve the transparency, equity, and collaboration of the project prioritization process.