The MicroBENCOST software was developed by the Texas Transportation Institute (TTI) to calculate user benefits and costs for several types of highway improvement analysis. The purpose of this report was to review the capabilities and the drawbacks of this software and to assess the feasibility of its use for benefit/cost (B/C) analysis in the Washington State Department of Transportation Mobility division (WSDOT Mobility).
This review shows that for the most part, the overall procedures of MicroBENCOST are comparable to many employed by WSDOT Mobility (i.e., similar components are included in benefit and cost calculations, and similar project types can be analyzed). However, the output of the program depends on many default values that differ from WSDOT Mobility's and are designed not to be overwritten. Additionally, the program utilizes some calculations that are much more complex and require more detailed data than those currently used by WSDOT Mobility. Finally, although the general procedures utilized by the software are accepted and widely used throughout industry, they have inherent drawbacks that conflict with the analysis of alternative transportation solutions. Adoption of MicroBENCOST would not advance WSDOT Mobility toward the goal of including more alternative transportation solutions in the process.
Adoption of MicroBENCOST is certainly feasible but would require substantial work by someone who understands both the coding of the program and the sensitivity of its output to any revisions, as well as the WSDOT benefit-cost procedures. The primary advantage of utilizing MicroBENCOST would be that once the default values and procedures had been established, the program could allow better standardization and automation of some benefit/cost calculation methods. However, the change would require a tradeoff decision regarding whether the review, consensus-building, and refinement of both the software and existing WSDOT Mobility procedures would be justified by some degree of increased standardization. The end result would be a more elaborate way to do a portion of the same benefit/cost calculations, with no added capability for more comprehensive evaluation or for analysis of alternative transportation solutions.