Public demand and federal funding for transit have grown in recent years, yet most of this funding is not tied to performance. As Congress prepares for reauthorization of the federal surface transportation programs, GAO was asked to report on (1) the extent to which federal transit programs use performance information in making decisions about funding distribution and in evaluating the programs' effectiveness; (2) mechanisms for making these programs more performance based, and strategies for supporting their successful implementation; and (3) how selected U.S. and foreign transit agencies have used performance measurement in their planning and decisions, and their views on the federal role in transit. To do so, GAO analyzed legislation, federal documents, and literature; interviewed federal officials and transit experts; and conducted semistructured interviews with selected transit agencies using criteria that, for U.S. agencies, covered a variety of regions and population sizes and, for foreign agencies, multiple transit modes and English language capability.
Recommendations for Executive Action
|Department of Transportation||1. To enhance the performance of federal transit programs, the Secretary of Transportation should direct the FTA Administrator to study and report to Congress on options for adding performance accountability mechanisms to transit grant programs. FTA should strive to provide such information in time to be considered during the reauthorization of the federal transit programs.|
|Department of Transportation||2. To improve FTA's ability to determine the extent to which transit grants, current formula incentives, and FTA program activities have had a positive effect on local transit agency performance--and to the extent that FTA finds current data sources to be appropriate and reliable for such purposes-- the Secretary of Transportation should direct the FTA Administrator to further analyze and use data submitted to FTA by local transit agencies. As part of this analysis, FTA may want to identify and evaluate, when applicable, (1) the extent to which transit grant programs are accomplishing their established goals; (2) the areas of performance in which FTA should concentrate its program activities to increase the performance of local transit agencies and the federal transit program in general; and (3) the extent to which formula incentives and other performance accountability mechanisms have influenced the activities and performance of local transit agencies.|