A1D09: Committee on Statewide Transportation Data and Information Systems Chairman: Ronald W. Tweedie, New York State Department of Transportation
Data, Data, Data—Where’s the Data?
MARTHA J. TATE-GLASS, California Department of Transportation ROB BOSTRUM, Kentucky Transportation Cabinet GREG WITT, Kentucky Transportation Cabinet
Transportation is changing throughout the nation. More people need to reach multiple destinations and achieve multiple objectives in one trip. Many of these trips cross jurisdictional and modal boundaries. In major urban areas, existing and new users are making increasingly complex trips that put higher demands on the transportation infrastructure and services. For example, travel to jobs, shopping, medical facilities, educational institutions, entertainment, and other neighborhoods requires seamless transitioning from one mode of travel to another.
These demands require a major new transportation strategy that responds to the issues facing each state and the nation for the next 20 to 30 years and well into the new millennium. Transportation leaders understand that this new strategy must include all aspects of the nation’s vital infrastructureair, water, housing, education, and more. The strategy must include an intergovernmental approach for accommodating growth in already heavily populated urban areas. This would involve a partnership with private entities and officials who make land-use decisions. Finally, the strategy must address the needs of an aging but active population.
Accurate, reliable, and readily available data is the essential tool for making this new transportation strategy a reality. Transportation professionals must find better ways to meet federal, state, and municipal needs for modeling, data systems, traffic counts, and performance measuring. The first step must be more reliable data. However, this will be a “tough sell,” because data is more elusive than blacktop. Many of the points in this article echo the poignant statements of Alan Pisarski, the 1999 TRB Distinguished Lecturer, made in his speech at the TRB Annual Meeting in January 1999 (1).
DILEMMAS OF TRANSPORTATION DATA COLLECTION Transportation leaders have established little guidance regarding what data to collect, in what detail, precision, and frequency, or even for what reason. The most important aspects of transportation are time and cost. Yet little or nothing is known about these two factors. For example, think of performance measures without time or cost elements. Transportation data collection is literally a moving target. It is difficult to think of instances where it has been measured well. The single exception may be the airline industry air travel is certainly the most data intensive transportation industrybut it also has problems.