BTS statistical programs and activities support the priorities of the U.S. Department of Transportation – contributing to initiatives in safety, congestion, global connectivity, environmental stewardship, security, and organizational excellence.
BTS collects data and produces studies on the safety and security of travelers, vehicles, and transportation systems. The Omnibus Household Survey collects data on-demand to provide information on the public's use and satisfaction with the transportation system, including personal safety and security while traveling.
BTS is a key partner in the Confidential Close Calls Reporting System (C3RS) Demonstration Project, a major safety initiative sponsored by the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) that has required BTS to work closely with railroad management and labor as well as the FRA and the Volpe National Transportation Systems Center. Using its unique authority to protect the confidentiality of information collected for statistical purposes and its expertise in data collection and analysis, BTS developed and operates the C3RS. Railroad employees voluntarily submit reports to BTS on close calls that pose safety risks to railroad operations. BTS collects additional details to prepare an incident analysis report and sends the results, with all identifying information removed, to a Peer Review Team at the pilot site. The Peer Review Team reviews the incident report, determines the underlying causes of the close call, and develops recommended corrective actions to prevent further occurrences.
BTS staff regularly consult and collaborate with USDOT agencies and outside organizations on data collection, survey design, and other statistical issues related to safety matters. Recent examples include advising the Office of the Secretary of Transportation regarding the implementation of new highway safety performance metrics proposed by USDOT's National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), and staff participation on the Hazardous Materials Cooperative Research Program (HMCRP) project panels for Hazardous Materials Commodity Flow Data and Analysis (HM-01) and Hazardous Materials Transportation Incident Data for Root Cause Analysis (HM-02).
BTS safety data and analyses are used in a variety of ways. For instance, the Federal Aviation Administration uses BTS data to evaluate airline safety, allocate safety inspection resources, and assess the adequacy of aviation safety regulations, standards, policies, and procedures.
BTS studies on travel times and congestion measurement help decision makers determine the impact of congestion on the national transportation system and the U.S. economy. These projects cut across all modes: collecting line-haul speeds and terminal dwell times for railroads, reporting travel speeds and forecasting vehicle miles traveled on highways, and estimating the economic costs of congestion across modes.
The Bureau works collaboratively with the other USDOT modal administrations, for example, using Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS) data from the FHWA's monthly congestion reports to analyze detailed travel time and speed data from 20 urban areas in the United States. BTS routinely issues press releases about on-time flight performance of the top 10 reporting air carriers, including the number of domestic flight cancellations, causes of flight delays, and rate of mishandled baggage per 1,000 passengers. Targeted analyses explain trends in travel, including airline taxi-out delays. In conjunction with the Transportations Services Index project, BTS provides monthly estimates of aviation revenue passenger miles and revenue ton miles, both of which contribute to the index.
Using a wide variety of data sources, BTS provides a detailed picture of the flow of people and goods to and from the United States. The Bureau compiles, validates, analyzes, and disseminates data on trade trends; movement of goods by land, sea, and air; and personal travel. In June, the agency published a special report: U.S.-China Trade Growth and America's Transportation System, which was used by the Office of the Secretary of Transportation in the Strategic Economic Dialogue meetings with Chinese government officials..
Monthly, BTS reports TransBorder freight flow data by commodity type, mode of transportation (rail, truck, pipeline, mail, air, and water), and port of entry/exit for U.S. exports to and imports from Canada and Mexico. Customers use these data for a variety of purposes, including trade corridor studies and transportation infrastructure planning. Additionally, the Bureau makes available incoming Border Crossing data for vehicles, containers, passengers, and pedestrians for land ports on the U.S. borders with Canada and Mexico. BTS prepared custom tables of the TransBorder and Border Crossing data for FHWA to calculate the FY 2009 apportionment of funds to states under the Coordinated Border Infrastructure Program.
BTS continued its leadership role in the 14-year-old North American Transportation Statistics Interchange with the federal statistical and transportation agencies of Canada and Mexico. At the 2008 meeting hosted by Mexico, the Interchange countries agreed to update the North American Transportation Statistics Database, which supplies users with an online source of relevant, timely, and comparable transportation data and information for North America.
Bureau staff actively participated in the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe's (UNECE) Working Party on Transport Statistics meeting in Geneva, Switzerland, in May. The UNECE includes Europe, the former Soviet Republics in Central Asia, the United States, and Canada. Involvement by staff included reviewing the draft of a transportation glossary and offering suggestions for incorporating American English terminology.
BTS leads the USDOT effort to develop an international freight data warehouse and interface with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security's Customs and Border Protection Automated Commercial Environment/International Trade Data System. The Agency participates in workshops and meetings with Customs and Border Protection to ensure that needed trade and transportation data are available in the system and to address issues regarding data integration and harmonization. BTS presented plans for the International Freight Data System at the Transportation Border Working Group's Border Data Workshop in June.
BTS also provided, in June, a presentation in London on the U.S. Federal Statistical System at the request of the Official Statistics Section (OSS) of the Royal Statistical Society. BTS currently serves as the U.S. representative on the OSS committee.
BTS supports environmental stewardship by working collaboratively with national and international entities to share data and perform analyses. BTS represented the United States at the Energy and Environment Working Group of the North American Transportation Statistics Interchange in Manzanillo, Mexico, in May. BTS staff discussed the addition of energy and environmental indicators in the Interchange's on-line database, and three indicators are expected to be released by Canada, Mexico, and the United States in 2009.
BTS provides statistics and analysis to the USDOT Center on Climate Change and Environmental Forecasting, including its project to examine the effects of sea level rise on the Nation's transportation infrastructure. The Bureau also serves as an active member of the technical oversight panel for the Transportation Research Board's Hazardous Materials Cooperative Research Program. With TRB, BTS staff facilitated a workshop in March on Data for Goods Movement Impacts on Air Quality.
BTS works with agencies within the USDOT and throughout the government to support efforts to improve the Nation's security, preparedness, and response. BTS staff provide extensive geospatial mapping and analysis support to the USDOT Crisis Management Center (CMC). Geospatial Information Program staff provided support for the CMC's preparedness exercises and their response to incidents and natural disasters, such as the aftermath off hurricane Katrina, the Minnesota I-35 bridge collapse, and the flooding along the Mississippi River. In FY 2008, 15 maps were produced and delivered to the Crisis Management Center.
Security and safety are paramount in transporting hazardous materials, especially when shipments travel through major metropolitan areas. According to the Bureau's Commodity Flow Survey, there were 2.2 billion tons of hazardous materials shipments in the United States in 2002—the latest year for which data are available. While the overwhelming majority of shipments arrive without incident, hazardous material shipments sent by pipelines, truck, and trains are vulnerable to accident or attack. In addition to analyzing the Commodity Flow Survey data, BTS has provided consultation to the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration and its work on oil pipeline sampling and hazardous materials research.
BTS responds to numerous requests for hazardous materials data from the general public. The Bureau's data and analyses are used by metropolitan planning organizations, trade associations, and transportation facilities to analyze trends in travel behavior, forecast future travel demands, and determine infrastructure and equipment needs.
The Bureau is dedicated to ensuring its data and analyses are relevant, timely, comparable, complete, accessible, and of high quality. Data users can count on the timeliness of scheduled releases, such as the monthly releases of the Transportation Services Index, TransBorder data, airline traffic and capacity data, airline on-time flight performance data, and the Air Travel Consumer Report. The Bureau also works with other agencies both within and outside the Department to improve the quality of transportation information.
The Bureau regularly responds to the Office of the Secretary's time-sensitive requests for data and information. In FY 2008, BTS supported and participated in the Office of the Secretary of Transportation's International Policy Council meetings. Staff also provided input for a presentation on Infrastructure Renewal delivered at the U.S.-Canada-Mexico Trilateral Summit.
In FY 2008, the Bureau developed and implemented the BTS Customer Service Feedback System, an online system that collects, tracks, and analyzes customer feedback. Information collected through interactions with customers, including the online survey, comment cards, and customer phone calls, is recorded and updated regularly. The customer feedback reports generated by this new system inform the decision making processes for BTS products and services.