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Measuring Improvements in the Movement of Highway and Intermodal Freight

Evaluation of First-Tier Indicators

Criteria Used

First-tier indicators were evaluated using the following criteria:

Descriptive valueIs the indicator clear and understandable for a range of audiences? Does it communicate clearly or does it require a detailed explanation in order to be understood?

This criterion concerns the comprehensibility of the indicator for general audiences. A useful performance measure might require some explanation to make it understandable to a generalist audience, but the best indicators according to this criterion would be readily understood without more than a paragraph or two of plain English.

Technical appropriatenessHow useful is the indicator in describing the productivity of freight movement in the U.S.? Is it conceptually appropriate as a measure of productivity or a measure of FHWA's contribution to productivity?

This criterion concerns the usefulness of the indicator as a measure of productivity. Technical appropriateness depends on the degree to which the measure truly reflects a significant aspect of cost, quality, or productivity of the highway-freight system and its intermodal connections. A major thrust of this effort is to measure the contribution of highway-freight movement to overall U.S. productivity, not just the productivity of highway freight. Therefore, it is appropriate to measure quality and cost of the highway system as it related to freight.

Data Availability and Cost – Data issues include the following considerations:

Availability Are data available in existing databases? If data are available, is it easy to collect, or are there difficulties in obtaining the data? Are there new ways to develop or collect the data?

This criterion addresses the issues of data measurability and collectability. One key issue is whether data are collectable even if the data are available, e.g., some potentially useful data may be proprietary to private firms.

Cost How expensive would it be to collect the appropriate data?

For descriptive value and technical appropriateness, numerical scores on an ascending scale of one to three were used.  For data availability and cost, qualitative descriptors were used. For availability, the following descriptors were used: easy, not easy, and difficult. Easy means the data series already exists or the required information is readily obtainable.  Not easy means some extra institutional effort is required to obtain the data, e.g., if FHWA would have to go to State or local governments to get some additional information, that is scored as not easy. Difficult is used for cases where FHWA would have to obtain the cooperation of private firms, and such firms might regard the data as proprietary. For cost, the following descriptors were used: low, medium,


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