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Appendix A BTS Legislative Authorities and Mandates

Appendix A BTS Legislative Authorities and Mandates

Establishment. The Bureau of Transportation Statistics (BTS) has been established within the Research and Innovative Technology Administration (RITA) of the Department of Transportation (DOT).

Appropriations. BTS is authorized $27,000,000 for each of fiscal years 2005 through 2009 to carry out Section 111 of title 49, United States Code. This authorization is part of SAFETEA-LU, Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act: a Legacy for Users, Public Law 10959, signed by the President on August 10, 2005.

Director. BTS is headed by a Director appointed from the competitive service by the Secretary of Transportation. Director is qualified to serve by virtue of his or her training and experience in the collection, analysis, and use of transportation statistics. The Director serves as the senior advisor to the Secretary of Transportation regarding data and statistics.

BTS Responsibilities. The specific areas of responsibility for BTS are:

  1. Providing data, statistics, and analysis to support transportation decisionmaking. BTS ensures that the statistics and information compiled support decisionmaking by the Federal Government, state and local governments, metropolitan planning organizations, transportation-related associations, the private sector (including the freight community), and the public.
  2. Coordination of data collection. BTS coordinates the collection of information by working with the DOT operating administrations to establish and implement data programs and to improve the coordination of information collection efforts with other Federal agencies.
  3. Data Modernization. BTS continually improves surveys and data collection methods to enhance the accuracy and utility of transportation statistics.
  4. Encouraging data standardization. BTS promotes the standardization of data, data collection methods, and data management and storage technologies for data collected by the Bureau, the DOT operating administrations, states, local governments, metropolitan planning organizations, and private sector entities.
  5. Transportation statistics. BTS collects, compiles, analyzes, and publishes a comprehensive set of transportation statistics on the performance and impacts of the national transportation system, including statistics on:
      a) productivity in various parts of the transportation sector;
      b) traffic flows for all modes of transportation;
      c) other elements of the intermodal transportation database;
      d) travel times and measures of congestion;
      e) vehicle weights and other vehicle characteristics;
      f) demographic, economic, and other variables influencing traveling behavior, including choice of transportation mode and goods movement;
      g) transportation costs for passenger travel and goods movement;
      h) availability and use of mass transit (including the number of passengers served by each mass transit authority) and other forms of for-hire passenger travel;
      i) frequency of vehicle and transportation facility repairs and other interruptions of transportation service;
      j) safety and security for travelers, vehicles, and transportation systems;
      k) consequences of transportation for the human and natural environment;
      l) the extent, connectivity, and condition of the transportation system, building on the national transportation atlas database; and
      m) transportation-related variables that influence the domestic economy and global competitiveness.
  6. National spatial data infrastructure. BTS is responsible for building and disseminating the transportation layer of the National Spatial Data infrastructure developed under Executive Order No. 12906, Coordinating Geographic Data Acquisition and Access: the National Spatial Data Infrastructure (April 1994). This includes coordinating the development of transportation geospatial data standards, compiling intermodal geospatial data, and collecting geospatial data that is not being collected by others.
  7. Issuing guidelines. BTS issues guidelines for the collection of information by the Department required for transportation statistics in order to ensure that such information is accurate, reliable, relevant, and in a form that permits systematic analysis.
  8. Review sources and reliability of statistics. BTS reviews and reports to the Secretary on the sources and reliability of the statistics proposed by the heads of the operating administrations of the Department to measure outputs and outcomes as required by the Government Performance and Results Act, and carries out such other reviews of the sources and reliability of other data collected or statistical information published by the heads of the operating administrations of the Department as requested by the Secretary.
  9. Making statistics accessible. BTS makes statistics published readily accessible to the public.

Intermodal Transportation Database. In consultation with the Under Secretary for Policy, the Assistant Secretaries, and the heads of the DOT operating administrations, BTS establishes and maintains a transportation database for all modes of transportation. The database is to be suitable for analyses carried out by the Federal Government, the States, and metropolitan planning organizations. The database is to include:

  1. Information on the volumes and patterns of movement of goods, including local, interregional, and international movement, by all modes of transportation and intermodal combinations and by relevant classification
  2. Information on the volumes and patterns of movement of people, including local, interregional, and international movements, by all modes of transportation (including bicycle and pedestrian modes) and intermodal combinations and by relevant classification
  3. Information on the location and connectivity of transportation facilities and services
  4. A national accounting of expenditures and capital stocks on each mode of transportation and intermodal combination.

National Transportation Library. BTS establishes and maintains a National Transportation Library, which contains a collection of statistical and other information needed for transportation decisionmaking at the Federal, State, and local levels. BTS facilitates and promote access to the Library, with the goal of improving the ability of the transportation community to share information and the ability of the Director to make statistics readily accessible. BTS works with other transportation libraries and transportation information providers, both public and private, to improve the coordination of information collection efforts.

National Transportation Atlas Database. BTS develops and maintains a national transportation atlas database that is able to support intermodal network analysis. It is comprised of geospatial databases that depict:

  1. transportation networks
  2. flows of people, goods, vehicles, and craft over the networks, and
  3. social, economic, and environmental conditions that affect or are affected by the networks.

Transportation Statistics Annual Report. BTS must submit to the President and Congress a transportation statistics annual report which includes a comprehensive set of transportation statistics on the performance and impacts of the national transportation system, documentation of methods used to obtain and ensure the quality of the statistics presented in the report, and recommendations for improving transportation statistical information.

Mandatory Response Authority for Freight Data Collection. BTS has statutory authority to collect freight data. For any data collection request prepared and submitted within that authority, the owner, official, agent, person in charge, or assistant to the person in charge of any freight corporation, company, business, institution, establishment, or organization of any nature whatsoever, must answer completely and correctly to the best of the individual's knowledge all questions relating to the corporation, company, business, institution, establishment, or other organization, or to make available records or statistics in the individual's official custody.

Transportation Data Access. BTS shall have access to transportation and transportation-related information in the possession of any Federal agency, except information

  1. for which disclosure another Federal agency is expressly prohibited by law; or
  2. for which disclosure by the agency possessing the information would significantly impair the discharge of its legal authorities and responsibilities.

Proceeds of Data Product Sales. Funds received by BTS from the sale of its data products may be credited to the Highway Trust Fund (other than the Mass Transit Account) for the purpose of reimbursing the Bureau for the expenses incurred.

Advisory Council on Transportation Statistics. The BTS Director shall establish an advisory council on transportation statistics. The function of the advisory council is to:

  1. advise the Director on the quality, reliability, consistency, objectivity, and relevance of transportation statistics and analyses collected, supported, or disseminated by the Bureau and the Department
  2. provide input to and review the national transportation information needs assessment report to Congress, and
  3. advise the BTS Director on methods to encourage cooperation and interoperability of transportation data collected by the Bureau, the operating administrations of the Department, States, local governments, metropolitan planning organizations, and private sector entities.

The advisory council is to be composed of not fewer than 9 and not more than 11 members appointed by the Director, who are not officers or employees of the United States. Each member is to have expertise in transportation data collection or analysis or application; except that 1 member is to have expertise in economics, 1 member is to have expertise in statistics, and 1 member is to have experience in transportation safety. At least 1 member is to be a senior official of a State department of transportation. Members must represent a cross-section of transportation community stakeholders. Members of the advisory council are appointed to staggered terms not to exceed 3 years, and may be renominated for 1 additional 3-year term. The Federal Advisory Committee Act, except section 14, governs the activities of the advisory council.

Information Needs Assessment. Not later than 60 days after the date of enactment of the SAFETEA-LU (October 9, 2005), the Secretary of Transportation shall enter into an agreement with the National Research Council to develop and publish a National transportation information needs assessment. The assessment shall be submitted to the Secretary and the appropriate committees of Congress not later than 24 months (October 2007) after such agreement is entered into. The assessment is to:

  1. identify, in order of priority, the transportation data that is not being collected by BTS, the operating administrations of the Department, or other Federal, state, or local entities, but is needed to improve transportation decisionmaking at the Federal, state, and local levels and to fulfill the requirements for a comprehensive set of transportation statistics covering the performance and impacts of the national transportation system
  2. recommend whether the data identified by the Information Needs Assessment should be collected by BTS, other parts of the Department, or by other Federal, state, or local entities, and whether any data is of a higher priority than data currently being collected
  3. identify any data the BTS or other Federal, state, or local entity is collecting that is not needed
  4. describe new data collection methods (including changes in surveys) and other changes BTS or other Federal, state, or local entity should implement to improve the standardization, accuracy, and utility of transportation data and statistics; and
  5. estimate the cost of implementing any recommendations.

In developing the assessment, the National Research Council is to consult with the Department's Advisory Council on Transportation Statistics and a representative cross-section of transportation community stakeholders as well as other Federal agencies, including the Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of Energy, and the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Not later than 180 days after the date on which the National Research Council submits the assessment (at latest April 2008), the Secretary shall submit a report to Congress that describes how the Department plans to fill the data gaps identified, stop collecting data that is no longer needed, plans to implement improved data collection methods and other changes, the expected costs of implementation, any findings of the assessment with which the Secretary disagrees, and any proposed statutory changes needed to implement the findings.

National Ferry Database. The Secretary of Transportation, acting through the BTS, shall establish and maintain a national ferry database. The database is to contain current information regarding ferry systems, including information regarding routes, vessels, passengers and vehicles carried, funding sources and such other information as the Secretary considers useful. Using information collected through the database, the Secretary shall periodically modify as appropriate the report submitted under section 1207(c) of the Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century (23 U.S.C. 129 note; 112 Stat. 185-186). The Secretary shall compile the database not later than 1 year after the date of enactment of this Act (August 10, 2005) and update the database every 2 years thereafter; ensure that the database is easily accessible to the public; and make available, from the amounts made available for the Bureau of Transportation Statistics, not more than $500,000 for each of fiscal years 2006 through 2009 to establish and maintain the database.

Impact Measurement Methodology. The Director of Office of Intermodalism and the Director of the Bureau of Transportation Statistics jointly

  1. develop, in consultation with the modal administrations, and state and local planning organizations, common measures to compare transportation investment decisions across the various modes of transportation; and
  2. formulate a methodology for measuring the impact of intermodal transportation on the environment; public health and welfare; energy consumption; the operation and efficiency of the transportation system; congestion, including congestion at the Nation's ports; and the economy and employment.

Research and Development Grants. The Secretary may make grants to, or enter into cooperative agreements or contracts with, public and nonprofit private entities (including state transportation departments, metropolitan planning organizations, and institutions of higher education) for:

  1. investigation of the performance and impacts on the national transportation system and research and development of new methods of data collection, standardization, management, integration, dissemination, interpretation, and analysis;
  2. demonstration programs by States, local governments, and metropolitan planning organizations to coordinate data collection, reporting, management, storage, and archiving to simplify data comparisons across jurisdictions;
  3. development of electronic clearinghouses of transportation data and related information, as part of the National Transportation Library; and
  4. development and improvement of methods for sharing geographic data, in support of the National Transportation Atlas Database and the National Spatial Data Infrastructure.

Aviation Information. The Secretary of Transportation is authorized to collect and collate transportation information that contributes to the improvement of the transportation system of the United States. Acting through the BTS, the Secretary collects and disseminates information on civil aeronautics (other than that collected and disseminated by the National Transportation Safety Board) including, information on

  1. the origin and destination of passengers in interstate air transportation, and
  2. the number of passengers traveling by air between any two points in interstate air transportation.

However, the Secretary may not require an air carrier to provide information on the number of passengers or the amount of cargo on a specific flight if the flight and the flight number are used solely for interstate air transportation and are not used for providing essential air transportation.

Limitations on Statutory Construction. Nothing in this section shall be construed to authorize the Bureau to require any other department or agency to collect data; or to reduce the authority of any other officer of the Department to collect and disseminate data independently.

Prohibition on Certain Disclosures. In general, an officer, employee, or contractor of the Bureau may not make any disclosure in which the data provided by an individual or organization can be identified; use the information provided for a nonstatistical purpose; or permit anyone other than an individual authorized by the Director to examine any individual report provided.

  1. Copies of reports. No department, bureau, agency, officer, or employee of the United States (except the Director in carrying out his /her statutory obligations) may require, for any reason, a copy of any report that has been filed with the Bureau or retained by an individual respondent.
  2. Limitation on judicial proceedings. A copy of a report provided by an individual or organization that has been retained by an individual respondent or filed with the Bureau or any of its employees, contractors, or agents shall be immune from legal process; and shall not, without the consent of the individual concerned, be admitted as evidence or used for any purpose in any action, suit, or other judicial or administrative proceedings. This shall apply only to reports that permit information concerning an individual or organization to be reasonably determined by direct or indirect means.
  3. Informing respondent of use of data. In a case in which the Bureau is authorized by statute to collect data or information for a nonstatistical purpose, the Director shall clearly distinguish the collection of the data or information, by rule and on the collection instrument, so as to inform a respondent who is requested or required to supply the data or information of the nonstatistical purpose.