Performance-Based Decision Making – Lessons Learned and Practitioner Toolkit

Project Summary


In Progress

Responsible Council / Committee

Infrastructure & Asset Management Council / Asset Management Committee / Mobility Council / Transportation Finance Committee

Project Funding Partners

British Columbia Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure; Yukon Highways and Public Works; Saskatchewan Highways and Infrastructure; New Brunswick Transportation and Infrastructure; City of Montreal; Ministry of Transportation, Ontario; Ministère des Transports du Québec; Manitoba Infrastructure and Transportation; PEI Department of Transportation & Public Works; Metrolinx

Staff Contact


Public agencies across Canada are developing processes and methodologies to evaluate and prioritize investments and optimize performance outcomes with available funds. There has been a convergent evolution of practices in performance-based decision making across Canada, with a number of agencies developing different approaches to address the need for transparent, outcome-driven processes for allocating capital and operating budgets. A key challenge of performance-based decision making is optimizing a portfolio of projects and programs involving different assets or asset classes across multiple modes of transportation. Transportation organizations are increasingly making use of cross-asset trade-offs and optimization methods (e.g., probabilistic/deterministic-based models, multi-attribute utility theory and analytical hierarchy process) as a key step to improving transparency and credibility in the context of performance-based decision making.

A summary of the state of practice and lessons learned as well as a toolkit for performance-based decision making will be a key study deliverable. This will provide valuable resources for practice and experience sharing amongst transportation agencies, many of which are transitioning from the practice of optimizing projects and individual asset management systems to optimizing across systems and across transportation sectors and modes.

The major project objectives are to:

  • Synthesize practice in performance-based evaluation, optimization and decision processes and techniques.
  • Provide practical tools for agencies to share and improve evaluation processes and techniques. This would include, but not be limited to, a set of tools, techniques and recommended practices for cross-asset optimization.
  • Identify lessons learned, provide recommendations and considerations for public agencies to improve evaluation and decision making practices.

It is expected that the following key questions will need to be answered to accomplish the project objectives:  

  • Why performance based tools were developed; what issues were they intended to resolve?
  • What challenges are public agencies facing in allocating and optimizing investment funds?
  • What optimization methods can be deployed to effectively compare funding options?
  • What are the key objectives for performance-based decision processes? How do they compare?
  • What was implemented? What were the results or barriers? What are the examples of substantially different outcomes?
  • What lessons were learned? What processes and methods were used?
  • What are the recommendations for improving performance-based optimization and decision making initiatives?

The major deliverable will be a report on current practices and lessons learned as well as a toolkit with examples of key elements of performance-based processes. The report will consist of:

  • Key findings from past research and analysis on performance-based processes, including typical objectives.
  • Summary of interviews with key agencies and practitioners using/developing performance frameworks considering lessons learned, challenges, and opportunities.
  • Consideration of life cycle issues, operating and capital issues or priority setting between different program elements (e.g. modes, capital vs. operating projects, transportation vs. non-transportation projects etc.).
  • Review of proven optimization techniques used in asset management programs from local, provincial, national and internal perspectives as well as new methods and techniques that may be in early stages of development.
  • Documented examples demonstrating meaningful application of proposed optimization methods.
  • Documented best practices in cross asset optimization with guidance for proposed techniques and examples from organizations leading in cross-asset management practices.