Developing a conceptual framework and building blocks for regional collaboration in performance-based transportation planning

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Smith-Colin, Janille
Amekudzi-Kennedy, Adjo A.
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The current national surface transportation legislation mandates performance-based transportation planning and emphasizes external collaboration as a key conceptual component of a performance-based approach. These mandates have renewed the focus on performance-collaboration activities as evidenced by ongoing efforts through the Every Day Counts Initiative, sponsored by the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials, and the U.S. Department of Transportation. Regional transportation collaboration (RTC) is the deliberate, continuous, and sustained activity that takes place when transportation agency managers and officials work together at a regional level to solve operational problems, improve system performance, and communicate better with one another. Although RTC was first defined by the Federal Highway Administration in 2004, there is currently an absence of models in transportation literature and practice designed to foster systematic improvements in performance through enhanced collaboration. Given the renewed emphasis on external collaboration in performance-based transportation planning (PBTP), there is a need for conceptual and analytical frameworks that expand the RTC paradigm, support RTC thinking and activity, and explicitly link performance and collaboration. This research offers guidance for the systematic improvement of regional transportation collaboration, with the expressed intent of achieving higher performing outcomes. The primary objective of the research is to develop a conceptual framework and building blocks for regional collaboration in a performance-based transportation planning context. The research draws on literature including transportation performance management, inter-organizational partnerships, and collaborative governance. This literature supports the investigation of performance and collaboration as interlinked constructs, with performance measured in terms of effectiveness, reputation and efficiency, and collaboration measured in terms of structure, governance, resources, tools/data, and strategies. Through a comparative analysis of regional safety coalitions, this research investigates how the concept of RTC may be operationalized in practice; identifies gaps between theory and practice, and defines building blocks and typologies for an effective performance-collaboration system. The research uses an inductive or theory-first approach to refine, specify, and elaborate upon the regional transportation collaboration literature by building typologies using a small number of cases. Nine regional safety coalitions within the state of Louisiana are investigated in an iterative process that includes the separate and sequential analysis of datasets. The research first develops a conceptual understanding of the performance-collaboration system through a literature review; collects and analyzes data on the regional safety coalitions using a survey, semi-structured interviews and embedded case analysis; develops building blocks and typologies to characterize maturing levels of performance and collaboration, and generates guidance for enhancing performance through improved collaboration. Findings from the research offer guidance to support systematic performance enhancement through improved collaboration. The findings indicate that common collaborative strategies can be identified and associated with different levels of performance within regional transportation coalitions. The RTC conceptual framework offers a context-specific evaluative framework that may be used to operationalize the interlinked constructs of performance and collaboration in PBTP. This research contributes to PBTP knowledge by integrating hitherto disparate bodies of knowledge, in the literature, to support the systematic improvement of regional partnerships operating in a performance-collaboration system. The research also contributes to the practice of PBTP by offering typologies, building blocks, and implementation guidance to practitioners working to improve performance outcomes through collaborative partnerships.
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