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Quality-of-life study helps MnDOT evaluate performance measures

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As part of a study on transportation and quality of life, the Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) has partnered with researchers from the University of Minnesota's Tourism Center to compare current MnDOT performance measures with quality-of-life factors that matter most to Minnesotans.
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The evaluation was designed to help MnDOT ensure alignment between the factors that best predict transportation satisfaction among Minnesota citizens and the indicators MnDOT uses to track and measure its performance. The study team was led by Ingrid Schneider, Tourism Center director, and Karla Rains, director of customer relations at MnDOT.

To conduct the evaluation, the research team first analyzed data collected using surveys and focus groups in a previous phase of the quality-of-life study. The data included information on the categories that contribute to quality of life in Minnesota, the role of transportation, and the specific factors or services within transportation that affect citizens' quality of life.

From these data, the team identified a list of key transportation elements that drive customer satisfaction. Results indicate that the most significant predictors can be grouped into three categories: maintenance/safety, mobility, and transparency. Within those categories, 11 specific items—such as snow and ice removal, road smoothness, commute time, and satisfaction with long-term planning—account for 56 percent of the differences in citizens' transportation satisfaction.

The team then compared the factors most important to Minnesota citizens with MnDOT's current performance measures. Overall findings indicate that these existing measures, which track performance in nine major areas, broadly capture much of what is important for Minnesotans' transportation-related quality of life.

"This was an important key finding for us—we're already measuring and reporting on many of the things that matter most to our customers," Rains says. "It was encouraging and comforting to see that."
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In addition to affirming MnDOT's existing measures, the evaluation identified a few gaps, specifically in the areas of safety, the environment, and transparency.

For example, MnDOT typically reports transportation safety in terms of total traffic fatalities and serious injuries from vehicle crashes. However, the quality-of-life study revealed citizen interest in a broader view of traveler safety. As a result, MnDOT plans to include bicycle, pedestrian, and railroad-grade crossing fatality data in future performance measures. "This is already data that we track, but now we plan to add more reporting of fatalities by mode than we have included before," Rains says.
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Based on other study-identified topics of importance, MnDOT plans to add new performance measures focused on air pollution and conduct more reporting of information related to public trust. "We continue to use this data as guidance in our planning, and it continues to be useful," Rains says.

"We want to make sure we're listening and measuring ourselves against the things that are most important to our customers."

Reprinted from CTS Catalyst, June 2013.

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