Many years ago I served as the program manager for the NC Alternative Fuel Vehicles program. The goal of the program was to promote the usage of various vehicle types that were alternatives to gasoline powered vehicles. One of the main programs in this set of grants was the Clean Cities program. Sponsored by the US Department of Energy, the program was designed as a public/private partnership between state and local governments, energy providers, fleet owners and environmental agencies and groups.
For instance, a city or county designated a Clean City would partner with the local utility provider who would create refueling stations for local buses or work with taxi companies to convert to electric or natural gas vehicles.
On a trip to Denver this weekend I was reminded of this program as I walked through downtown and noticed the numerous hybrid buses, like the one below, that sported the Clean Cities logo.
Now, what were the outcomes for Denver as a result of participating in the Clean Cities program? To answer that, we must think about all the stakeholder groups and the benefits they received as participants, and the costs associated with those benefits.
A main goal was to promote the usage of fuels that would lower our dependence on foreign oil. So, the first outcome that Denver may measure is a comparison of pre-program fuel expenditures vs. fuel expenditures of the current fleet of hybrid vehicles. This would be the most important measure from the Federal agency granting the funds as that is the policy goal of the program.
Another shareholder is the utility company. If those vehicles are plug-in hybrids, the company can track the energy use from each plug-in station.
Similarly, the bus manufacturers have derived a benefit by selling more buses to the city. The program funds may have been used to offset the costs of the hybrid vehicle vs. regular buses. The economic impacts to the bus manufacturer are an outcome that can be measured and modeled to determine the ripple effects on the economy by these subsidized purchases. For instance, new employees with new skills will be required to support the fleet.
The EPA and other environmental entities can measure the reduced carbon dioxide from the buses as another outcome of the program.
So, from one program, we are able to evaluate a number of outcomes and impacts on stakeholders. Each government program that is operated has similar policy goals that can be measured. Additionally, and maybe even more importantly, these impacts can be modeled during the policy making process to predict potential outcomes. Accurate, predictive models make better policy, which leads to better outcomes.