Prioritizing of ARRA Projects
To ensure ARRA funding would fulfill legislative requirements and support the agency’s longer term goals, Metro conducted a new agency-wide prioritization process. In this process, Metro staff first identified which CNI projects were “shovel ready,” eligible for federal funding, could be completed in the required timeframe and could not be implemented without additional funds. The pool of potential ARRA projects totaled $530 million. The next question was, “how can we prioritize ARRA projects based on different funding constraints?” The answer was grounded in Metro’s strategic goals.
In August 2007, Metro’s general manager and Executive Leadership Team (ELT) established five strategic goals: (1) create a safer organization, (2) deliver quality service, (3) use every resource wisely, (4) retain and attract the best and the brightest and (5) maintain and enhance Metro's image. These strategic goals were designed to guide decision-making at Metro. To further refine these goals, Metro developed strategic objectives for each goal by conducting a series of internal discussions and reaching out to external partners as well, such as the agency’s Jurisdictional Coordinating Committee comprised of transportation officials across the cities and counties it served, the Riders Advisory Council representing everyday passengers, and the Accessibility Advisory Council representing riders with disabilities. Metro asked each of these stakeholders to define the strategic goals from their perspective.
Internally, the Capital Planning and Advisory Committee — Technical (CPAC-T), further refined the strategic objectives in a facilitated brainstorming session. The CPAC-T consists of members across the entire organization including the three modes (bus, rail, paratransit), Information Technology, Metro’s Transit Police Department and other capital intensive areas (e.g., elevators and escalators). This group of subject matter experts was developed to identify capital needs, evaluate capital needs and guide capital programming. To finalize the strategic framework, the ELT edited and approved the objectives listed in Figure 1.
[Figure 1] Metro Tree Diagram
Next, Metro needed to find a tool to conduct the prioritization process. In January 2009, Metro selected Decision Lens, a provider of decision support software solutions for government and commercial clients. The Decision Lens tool quickly synthesizes qualitative and quantitative information from multiple stakeholders to gain buy-in for trade-off or allocation decisions. Through its process, Decision Lens establishes accurate relative priorities representing a group’s business objectives, performance measures and alternative options so that organizations can focus on the highest value activities. Decision Lens was a distinctive tool because it ties together weighted criteria, voting, prioritization and resource allocation in a single collaborative product. The software also produces graphical representations of the prioritization process making it easy to communicate the results with staff and management.
Using Decision Lens, the ELT went through a “Pairwise Comparison” to weigh Metro’s goals and objectives. In this process, executives compared Metro’s five strategic goals and related objectives through a set of judgments in which two elements are compared at a time using remotely controlled voting keypads. This “Pairwise Comparison” process derives criteria weights collaboratively, rather than by assigning arbitrary weights by an individual. The process also provided a key opportunity to explain, defend and rationalize where the organization should focus.
At the same time, the CPAC-T met for three half-day sessions to vote on how significantly each potential ARRA project contributed to each strategic objective (critical, very important, important, marginal or no contribution). CPAC-T members would advocate and vote on behalf of its needs, in addition to being able to hear and vote on needs across other departments. This approach formed the basis of a repeatable, collaborative and transparent decision-making process. A key strength of the process was the wide-ranging experience of the CPAC-T