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A benchmarking framework for understanding bus performance in the US

Lindsey Morse (Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Transport Strategy Centre, Centre for Transport Studies, Imperial College London, London, UK)
Mark Trompet (Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Transport Strategy Centre, Centre for Transport Studies, Imperial College London, London, UK)
Alexander Barron (Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Transport Strategy Centre, Centre for Transport Studies, Imperial College London, London, UK)
Richard Anderson (Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Transport Strategy Centre, Centre for Transport Studies, Imperial College London, London, UK)
Daniel J. Graham (Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Transport Strategy Centre, Centre for Transport Studies, Imperial College London, London, UK)

Benchmarking: An International Journal

ISSN: 1463-5771

Article publication date: 5 March 2020

Issue publication date: 29 April 2020

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Abstract

Purpose

This paper describes a benchmarking framework applied to medium-sized urban public bus agencies in the United States, which has overcome the challenges of data quality, comparability, and understanding.

Design/methodology/approach

The benchmarking methodology described in this paper is based on lessons learned through seven years of development of a fixed-route key performance indicator (KPI) system for the American Bus Benchmarking Group (ABBG). Founded in 2011, the ABBG is a group of public medium-sized urban bus agencies that compare performance and share best practices with peers throughout the United States. The methodology is adapted from the process used within international benchmarking groups facilitated by Imperial College and consists of four main elements: peer selection, KPI system development, processes to achieve high-quality data, and processes to understand relative performance and change.

Findings

The four main elements of the ABBG benchmarking methodology consist of 18 subelements, which when applied overcome three main benchmarking challenges: comparability, data quality, and understanding. While serving as examples for the methodology elements, the paper provides specific insights into service characteristics and performance among ABBG agencies.

Research limitations/implications

The benchmarking approach described in this paper requires time and commitment and thus is most suitably applied to a concise group of agencies.

Practical implications

This methodology provides transit agencies, authorities, and benchmarking practitioners a framework for effective benchmarking. It will lead to high-quality comparable data and a strong understanding of the performance context to serve as a basis for organizational changes, whether for policy, planning, operations, stakeholder communication, or program development.

Originality/value

The methodology, while consistent with recommendations from literature, is unique in its scale, in-depth validation and analysis, and holistic and multidimensional approach.

Keywords

Acknowledgements

The authors thank the member agencies of the American Bus Benchmarking Group for their willingness to share their experiences with the development of fixed-route benchmarking with the wider transport and benchmarking industry.

Citation

Morse, L., Trompet, M., Barron, A., Anderson, R. and Graham, D.J. (2020), "A benchmarking framework for understanding bus performance in the US", Benchmarking: An International Journal, Vol. 27 No. 4, pp. 1533-1550. https://doi.org/10.1108/BIJ-08-2019-0367

Publisher

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Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2020, Emerald Publishing Limited