Cities Get Smart with Performance Measures

Dave Bullock, Managing Director, ITS Line of Business, Miovision

Ask the average citizen what a smart city is and you’re likely to hear the following replies:

“It’s where my town fixes utility outages more quickly.”
“My city is looking at data about my usage of public services so it can serve me better.”
“It means I get like seven straight green lights on my way to work.”

All of these are true. But there’s an underlying smartness that goes pretty much unnoticed. It’s about how cities use data to make better decisions. Change is happening now about how governments are justifying projects funded by tax dollars. More and more, city councils and state legislatures are employing private-sector rigor to allocate funding and assess after-the-fact performance of public investments. There’s a movement afoot to performance-based project selection, especially in transportation.

Take Virginia. It’s official state slogan, “Virginia is for Lovers,” is evidently about lovers of data. It is basing every new transportation funding project on performance data. The state announced in June 2016 its Smart Scale Policy. It’s about picking the right transportation projects for funding and ensuring the best use of limited tax dollars. Starting this year, transportation projects in Virginia are being scored with an objective, outcome-based process that is transparent to the public and keeps civic decision-making accountable to taxpayers.

Instead of squishy logic, pork-barrel pandering or politically-motivated projects, the state has committed to approving each new project on projected performance measures and ongoing analysis of outcomes compared to projections. They will be based on the state’s priorities, specified by the legislature, which include safety, reducing congestion, accessibility, environmental quality, economic development and proper land use.

States across the union are following Virginia’s lead. Massachusetts is working to finalize its performance measures roadmap for project approvals. Louisiana, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota and Oregon have also announced such initiatives. It’s about time they tackled a $300 billion opportunity.

Big Dollars, Little Transparency

Federal, state and local spending on transportation will be about $300 billion this year. It’s done with little transparency for citizens and without an eye to performance measures for new infrastructure. States will typically list what projects have been successful in applying for funding. But very rarely is data shared, or even available, to back up why certain projects were selected. And almost never is there data after-the-fact to analyze the return on investment of past expenditures. This has generated low tax payer confidence, and generally low accountability.

Performance measures are available today to vastly improve how cities make funding decisions. The Big Data movement has entered the civic planning space in the form of sensor data from infrastructure, connected devices around cities and analytical tools to frame performance goals.

Data and performance measures is not just a tool that traffic engineers use to tune and optimize their infrastructure. It’s quickly becoming a mandatory component of how projects get selected, funded and assessed at the government and citizen level. Not investing in data driven technology and expertise now puts a planner’s ability to get future funding grants at severe risk.

 In the recent past, traffic teams have utilized data to improve operational efficiencies and unlock additional capacity from their roadways. In the coming years, this data trend will enter the strategic sphere, where funding decisions are made.  Data-based funding criteria will emerge as a common framework for choosing what gets funded and supported based on how it meets congestion, safety, environmental and economic performance targets. Performance measures will also be the method to ensure transparency and accountability in deployment of tax dollars.

Traffic teams who don’t invest in understanding data are missing out on operational optimizations and efficiencies today. But tomorrow, they’ll will be missing out on funding dollars as government and citizens demand more data-driven accountability and decision making backed up by performance measures.

Traffic Insights


Now, here’s where all this relates to Miovison.

Miovision has introduced performance measurements features into Spectrum, to support better decision-making policies being instituted across the country. As more and more data becomes accessible, Spectrum helps cities make sense of it with:

  • A defined set of Performance Measures for the whole traffic system that quantifies traffic network performance
  • Trend mapping of how intersections and corridors are performing over time
  • Visualizations of historic traffic patterns
  • Before/after impact analysis of signal tuning on road capacity
  • Identification of systemic shifts in the network compared to short-term anomalies.

For more information on Spectrum and how to connect and understand your traffic signals, please visit

Dave Bullock is a serial entrepreneur who has built successful companies in the mobile, gaming, and telecommunications industries.  He joined Miovision in 2015 and spearheads Miovision’s Intelligent Transportation efforts.

Check out Dave’s Interview with Kevin Borras from Thinking Highways Magazine at ITS America 2016:

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