What is Mosaic?

Mosaic is a new tool for use in transportation planning developed by the Oregon Department of Transportation in collaboration with local, regional, and statewide stakeholders. The approach offers planners and decision makers an effective and efficient way to evaluate the social, environmental, and economic costs and benefits of transportation actions and investments. The approach can be adapted to fit the needs of many different communities.

The Mosaic tool offers a common set of measures by which to evaluate options. It helps decision makers select more cost-effective actions and investments. Mosaic’s approach provides a clear, traceable, and transparent record of the evaluation process, analysis, and decision-making for transportation actions and investments.

Mosaic is designed for planning level analysis and not for project level analysis or project prioritization or selection. Mosaic compares groups of investments (bundles) to one another, but does not work at a fine enough resolution to evaluate individual projects. 

Potential Transportation Actions

Designed to be used in transportation planning at the regional, city and corridor levels, Mosaic compares “bundles” of potential transportation projects and/or programs comprising the alternatives considered in a transportation plan. These bundles may include both capital improvement projects and demand management programs.

The Mosaic tool assesses the net impacts (including benefits and disbenefits) and costs of bundles of actions across nine transportation system performance categories:

Mosaic is designed to nest within Oregon's existing transportation planning processes. Transportation planners will still survey needs, come up with potential solutions, evaluate them, and make recommendations. The tool simply enhances the evaluation step, making tradeoffs among bundles more explicit by monetizing results where possible, and providing a method to compare monetized and non-monetized results. 

Mosaic is scalable to staff size, available data, and unique community goals and needs. Where some jurisdictions may be able to monetize many indicators, others will begin with a largely non-monetized framework. See the User Guide for more details.

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Guiding Principles

These principles guided development of Mosaic:

Mosaic seeks the most cost-effective solutions considering the goals to be achieved over the long-term, not necessarily the least expensive solution in terms of up-front costs. Existing policy written in the Oregon Transportation Plan (OTP) lays the foundation for Mosaic; it is used as a starting point and an overall guide.

Mosaic complements existing planning, and utilizes and builds on existing analysis procedures and tools. Mosaic methods are such that the tool can be applied in every region of the state. For example, recommended methods may allow for flexibility in application or they may differ for urban and rural areas. Use of Mosaic results in information that can be considered and compared in a decision process, but does not dictate decisions.

Multiple tools and techniques contribute to the Mosaic methodology. Mosaic is not only benefit-cost analysis, economic impact analysis, or travel model analysis. Instead, Mosaic combines these and makes their information available and comparable together. Mosaic’s methods and the record built during its use allows for an overall understanding of the processes used to make transportation decisions.

Both qualitative and quantitative information are utilized as appropriate for evaluation and comparison in Mosaic alongside information represented in monetary terms for benefit-cost comparison.

Mosaic is not a static product. It will need improvements and updates as more is learned and techniques are improved over time.

 

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How Does Mosaic Improve Decision Making?

Based on the principles of least cost planning, Mosaic was founded on the concept of measuring value, both in monetary and non-monetary terms. Value here is defined as a measure of relative worth, utility, and importance. This concept expands on the classic principle of maximizing financial return on investment by adding social and environmental returns to the mix. Mosaic provides the means for translating many social and environmental effects into monetary terms. Others are reported quantitatively or qualitatively, depending on data availability, accuracy, and recommended best practices. For any impacts that are not monetizable, Mosaic includes a method for instead applying weights to impacts. This is described more fully in the User Guide.

In this way, Mosaic results reflect the unique values and context of the community engaged in the planning process. The tool provides the means for converting future costs and benefits into a common year. This procedure, termed "discounting," expresses future outcomes in their present value and permits a level-playing-field comparison of options whose costs and benefits occur at different rates over time. The conversion involves the use of a discount rate: the annual percentage change in the present value of a future dollar (or other unit of account). Mosaic allows for different discount rates to be applied (within established parameters) for different specific indicators, but requires that the same discount rate (or grouping of discount rates) be used across bundles.

How Will Mosaic Be Used to Make Decisions?

Mosaic is not a tool to be run in one afternoon. Rather, it is designed for use throughout a plan’s alternative evaluation steps. Planners and decision makers then look at the results for each bundle of actions and compare how each bundle of actions “scores” both overall and for each category of transportation system performance. While Mosaic supports transportation decision making, the tool does not dictate decisions. Rather, information about tradeoffs considered during decision making is illustrated in a clear and transparent manner, making it easier to identify the mix of transportation investments that will provide the greatest community value.