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Asset Management is Critical in Creating a Top-Notch Transportation System


On June 20, this blog brought you Making the Most of What We’ve Got, an introduction to SDOT’s Asset Management program in which we discussed the need for a database of SDOT assets and an evaluation of their condition.  Today, in our second edition of this multi-part series, we’ll discuss the simple three-tier rating system we use to describe the condition and assessment of an asset.

The first step in SDOT’s Asset Management Program was to identify what we owned and the condition of those assets.  To date, 46 different transportation assets have been identified, ranging from movable swing bridges to sidewalks.  For a list of SDOT’s Transportation assets, see 2009-2010 update Status & Condition Report, Executive Summary, page 6.

Most of SDOT’s assets are rated on a simple three-tier condition rating scale of good, fair, and poor.  Because of the complex nature of bridges and pavement, these assets are rated on an expanded point scale.  Today, we will only cover the three-tier condition rating used for the majority of our assets. 

Information on the condition of our assets is collected through a consistent process that yields the same result repeatedly, with well documented criteria, that are easily understood across all categories of our assets. In addressing the condition of SDOT’s assets, we are gathering information that helps identify how a particular asset may fail.  It is only a matter of time before all assets fail in some way or another.  Planning asset replacement or repairs allows the department to make educated decisions ahead of time and to forecast future budget requirements.

Data collected in the condition assessment is recorded against the individual asset in the central asset database, and is available to inform decisions, for instance, on asset replacement cycles.  The central database also allows us to  map assets by location across the city, contributing to equitable distribution of services. Now that we’ve explained about why condition assessments are important, let’s run through a typical scenario of performing condition assessment. 

A team is trained for the Bike Rack Inventory Collection Project.

After staff is provided with training and tools, a team will head out into the field, mostly on foot, with public transportation, or by bicycle, to conduct the assessment.  The three-tier system condition criteria are defined as follows:

Condition Definition
Good Asset is “as new” or requires only routine maintenance to keep it in service
Fair Asset requires major rehabilitation to keep it in service
Poor Asset should be replaced


An example of a bike rack in fair condition which requires rehabilitation in order to provide full service.

Ratings are established by defining the essential characteristics of what an asset should provide and how it should perform.  A sample chart of essential characteristics and the rating system is as follows:   

Essential Characteristic Rating
Good Fair Poor
Structural Able to maintain full capacity Unable to accommodate full capacity Unable to provide any service
Attachment to Ground Fully connected to surface Connection to surface loose but maintained Connection to surface lost

Each essential characteristic is examined and rated, and an overall condition rating for the asset is determined. 

Because this failing bike rack cannot provide any service, it will be replaced.

The essence of asset management is to make well informed decisions based on the best data available to provide the best level of transportation services at the lowest possible cost.  Inventory and asset condition data is the first building block of information that contributes to these well-informed decisions.  But it is just one piece; the service delivery expectation, or the level-of-service standard, is our next entry in this series.  It will explain how we identify the service the asset should provide.