Improving Access to Transportation Information

Transportation researchers, practitioners, and policy makers need a reliable information pipeline that captures relevant information in a consistent, comprehensive manner, with planned redundancy. Federal and state transportation agencies invest an enormous amount of time and money in generating information, but researchers and practitioners consistently report difficulties in finding and accessing it. Studies show employees spend 15-35% of their time searching for information. As much as 75% of an organization's information may be unstructured and unmanaged, resulting in wasted funds, lost opportunities, and duplication of effort. The transportation community currently shares information in a variety of ways. The most common method is to create a report or manual that is printed on paper, published on the internet, or both. Some of these reports are also submitted to major collections (such as TRIS or a transportation library) that enter them into bibliographic databases and preserve them. Transportation data is also shared in a variety of ways, and some may be found in central repositories and listings in data clearinghouses. One of the challenges to finding and managing transportation information is the limited use of common metadata and indexing terminology within the transportation community. Indexing and metadata standards do exist and are used but they are limited in scope and application. For example, the Transportation Research Thesaurus (TRT) is used by most transportation libraries, but the terminology does not yet address all of the terms needed and is not used to organize data resources or agency records. Data providers apply metadata standards, but the actual terms used are quite variable. Web pages use tags that are frequently established by the Web master. Record and document management systems use organizing structures based on the needs of current users of the resources, but it can be difficult to find information for another need. Image indexing systems are highly variable, from no system to strategic metadata and file names. There is no enterprise or industry-wide approach that addresses the broad user need for rapid access to relevant information. Within most transportation agencies, management of information resources is usually handled by the office creating the information, with no central point of contact to coordinate resources produced by diverse offices. This results in an inconsistent pattern of information capture and storage. While the practices applied may address the immediate need of the office creating the information, they may not support the broader agency information need (such as performance management resources or policy decisions) or the broader information needs of the transportation community (such as research and consideration of national policy). Common challenges within agencies include reports and data not being distributed beyond the issuing department; lack of attention to final disposition of data collected for projects, so that data remain with the private contractor and are not readily accessible to the agency; and information published only on the internet, where changing URLs may make the material hard or impossible to find and deletions occur because of data storage space limits or policy changes. Looking beyond single agencies, challenges include lack of institutional and financial support for joint-use information repositories; difficult and time-consuming efforts required to develop and reach consensus on terminology, information and data formatting, storage, and maintenance standards across the transportation community; and variations in sophistication and resources available to ensure interoperability for information deposit and access across agencies. The transportation community has made efforts to improve information management, for example producing a business plan for developing Transportation Knowledge Networks (TKN), the TRT, and TransXML. Further research is needed. The objective of this research will be to investigate feasible and effective practices for capturing information resources within transportation agencies, organizing these resources to enhance their availability, and facilitating their use within and among agencies to support decisionmaking, policy development, performance management, research, and other information uses. The research to accomplish this objective might include the following tasks: (1) review current practices and identify best practices for capture, preservation, and retrieval of transportation information; (2) compile a resource base of terminology and categorization schemes for transportation information resources, including thesauri, taxonomies, glossaries, and ontologies, including those drawing on related fields (for example, public safety, engineering, and environment); (3) develop a toolkit of resources and practices for agencies to use in more effectively managing their information resources; and (4) identify strategies for expanding the use of effective information capture, preservation, and retrieval practices within the community of transportation agencies.


  • English


  • Status: Proposed
  • Contract Numbers:

    Project 20-90

  • Sponsor Organizations:

    Federal Highway Administration

    1200 New Jersey Avenue, SE
    Washington, DC  USA  20590

    American Association of State Highway & Transportation Officials

    444 North Capitol Street, NW, Suite 225
    Washington, DC    20001

    National Cooperative Highway Research Program

    Transportation Research Board
    500 Fifth Street, NW
    Washington, DC  USA  20001
  • Project Managers:

    Lemer, Andrew

  • Start Date: 20100713
  • Source Data: RiP Project 26819

Subject/Index Terms

Filing Info

  • Accession Number: 01463879
  • Record Type: Research project
  • Source Agency: National Cooperative Highway Research Program
  • Contract Numbers: Project 20-90
  • Files: TRB, RiP, USDOT
  • Created Date: Jan 3 2013 2:32PM