Chapter 3: Improving Transportation Statistics
Chapter 3: Improving Transportation Statistics
The legislative mandate of U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT), Research and Innovative Technology Administration (RITA), Bureau of Transportation Statistics (BTS) requires annual submission of this Transportation Statistics Annual Report to the President and members of Congress. The report must include transportation data and information on topics identified in the Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act: A Legacy for Users (SAFETEA-LU), which are presented in the front of this report. Further, the report must document the methods used to obtain the report's statistical data and ensure information quality, and make recommendations for improving transportation statistical information. The final two items, ensuring and improving the quality of statistical information, are the subject of this Improving Transportation Statistics section.
Ensuring Information Quality
BTS obtained the data in this report from many sources, including other Federal agencies, private industry, and trade associations. Data based on surveys are subject to sampling variability, and data from all sources may be subject to omissions and errors in reporting, recording, and processing. The data sources cited for each table, figure, and map will provide detailed information about definitions, methodologies, and statistical reliability.
Under Office of Management Budget (OMB) directives, data collected by Federal agencies are subject to guidelines, policies, and practices that pertain to disseminating statistics to the public. Because Federal agencies are subject to these guidelines, BTS relies mostly on Federal sources for the data contained within this report. Federal agencies, both within and outside of the U.S. Department of Transportation, collect, compile, analyze, and publish transportation data. A partial list of these organizations is included in box A. In some cases, these agencies compile and disseminate data submitted or reported by State and local governments, and/ or private industry on transportation operations, planning, financing, or management. Further, some Federal agencies conduct surveys or otherwise directly collect data on specific matters, either through their own initiative or through partnerships with other entities. In addition, other Federal agencies produce data or information relevant to transportation, even though transportation is not the primary purpose.
The OMB chairs an interagency statistical policy committee, comprised of the heads of 13 statistical agencies in the Federal Government, including BTS. This group develops and distributes these statistical policies and guidelines for best practices to these 13 agencies and other agencies involved in statistics.
In response to its legislative mandates, BTS has developed guidelines for statistical practices in the transportation field. Specific topics covered include planning data systems, collecting data, processing data, dissemination of information, and evaluation of information quality. These guidelines apply to all information, including compilations containing data from other sources, appearing in BTS publications. Box B discusses various Federal statistical quality manuals and guidelines pertinent to transportation data.
In addition to government-wide guidance, Federal agencies may have specific requirements and guidelines. For example, they may issue guidelines for data reporting by State agencies, localities, and transportation providers. Such guidance may contribute to greater uniformity, comparability, and quality of the resulting data even though it comes from multiple providers.
In many cases, source agencies document the methods used in collecting, compiling, and assuring the quality of the data they produce and cited Federal agencies often publish source and accuracy statements. The BTS website for National Transportation Statistics, an online companion document to this report, summarizes much of this information with respect to particular data series (National Transportation Statistics, Appendix EData Source and Accuracy Statements, http://www.bts.gov/publications/national_transportation_statistics/ ).
Improving Data Quality
BTS program offices have lead efforts to close data gaps and improve the ways in which they collect, compile, analyze, and publish transportation data.
TransBorder Freight Data
The RITA/BTS North American TransBorder Freight Data Program provides U.S.Canada and U.S.Mexico merchandise trade data by commodity type, mode of transportation (rail, truck, pipeline, water, air, and other), and geographic detail for U.S. exports to and imports from Canada and Mexico. These data are an extract of the official foreign trade statistics collected by the U.S. Census Bureau. Data are available dating back to April 1993. The data are available via the Internet at http://www.bts.gov/programs/international/transborder/.
In 2009, the TransBorder Freight Data website added pie charts and interactive line graphs. In June 2010, BTS added a Geographic Information System mapping capability to the website. Further, BTS plans to add transshipment data in 2011.
The TransBorder Freight Data query system, which is available at http://www.bts.gov/programs/international/transborder/, produces:
Detailed Statistics provides users with the ability to make queries of the following data elements:
- U.S. State;
- trading partner;
- customs port;
- mode of transportation;
- value or weight;
- imports, exports, or total trade;
- commodity (at the two-digit Harmonized Tariff System level);
- year; and
Quick Search provides users with fast and simple annual and monthly trade and transportation facts such as the top 10 ports, top U.S. States, and top commodities in terms of trade value or weight for different modes of transportation.
Commodity Flow Survey
BTS released the preliminary estimates from the Commodity Flow Survey (CFS) in December 2008 and continued to process the data in 2009. The final data were released on Dec. 22, 2009. All 2007 CFS data products, as well as those from previous surveys, are available via the Internet at http://www.bts.gov/publications/commodity_flow_survey/ and via the U.S. Census Bureau's American FactFinder (AFF)http://factfinder.census.gov/. In addition to a comprehensive set of data tables, the AFF also now allows data users to generate and produce quick reports and thematic maps.
Freight Analysis Framework
In 2010, the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) updated the Freight Analysis Framework to version 3 (FAF3) making use of current freight statistics and enhanced methodologies. The current FAF3 data are based, in large part, on data from the recently published 2007 CFS, but also incorporate data from a variety of other public sources to fill the gaps from industries not covered by the survey.
The Freight Analysis Framework (FAF) estimates the total volume of freight flows and related freight transportation activities among States and major metropolitan areas. FAF also forecasts pressures of future freight flows on the existing transportation network by estimating changes in those flows and activities based on shifts in economic conditions and the availability of transportation facilities, among other factors.
FHWA has continually updated and improved FAF to provide the most accurate and current national freight statistics for Federal policy evaluation, the development of national investment and operations strategies, and the starting point for understanding freight activities at State and metropolitan levels. The current FAF3 data are based, in large part, on data from the recently published 2007 CFS, but also incorporates data from a variety of other public sources to fill the gaps from industries not covered by the survey. Improvements are intended to balance accuracy, completeness, and transparency to make relevant freight transportation data available to the transportation community at a national, State, and regional level.
Released in 2010, FAF3 provides regional freight flow data by commodity and mode, accessible via a new data extraction tool that allows users to summarize, view, and download FAF3 data via the website. Additional products that are part of the 2010 FAF3 release include forecasts for the years 2015 through 2040, an assignment of freight-hauling trucks to individual highway segments on the national network, annual provisional estimates, and national freight flow and congestion maps. Work is also underway to recalculate data used in previous FAF versions (2002 and 1997) utilizing current methods; when complete in 2011,
FAF3 will provide a comparable time-series for comprehensive analysis of freight transportation within, to, and from the United States.
FAF3 data and documentation are available via the Internet at http://www.ops.fhwa.dot.gov/freight/freight_analysis/faf/.
Vehicle Inventory and Use Survey
The Vehicle Inventory and Use Survey (VIUS) delivers critical information for highway cost allocation studies, air quality and greenhouse gas (GHG) emission models, and freight analysis work. Data from VIUS contributes directly to the FAF by providing an essential link between tonnages moved among regions and truck travel on the highway network.
Beyond the uses listed above, the survey provides data on the physical and operational characteristics of the Nation's private and commercial truck fleet. Its primary goal has been to produce national and State-level estimates of the total number of trucks. Discontinued after 2002 for funding reasons, the VIUS was first conducted in 1963 and has historically been carried out by the U.S. Census Bureau every 5 years as part of the Economic Census.
In 2010, the FHWA completed a design study to provide cost estimates for multiple options of a future VIUS program. The options include varying levels of vehicle and geographic characteristics historically part of the VIUS. This study has been conducted to provide specifications for a range of options should funds for reinstating the survey become available in the future.
In FY 2010, the BTS Office of Airline Information (OAI) introduced several new processes and reports to facilitate reporting and to track new areas of interest in regard to airline industry performance.
Electronic Submission of Airline Data (eSubmit) to USDOT
To reduce the reporting burden of U.S. and Foreign Airlines reporting data to USDOT, and reduce the data entry burden within BTS, a new rulemaking was implemented in 2010. Airlines within the United States began submitting data electronically (eSubmit) for the first group of reports on Oct. 1, 2010. Electronic submission of all other airline data is being phased in throughout the following 6 months.
New Interactive Reporting Tool Added to the BTS Website
Interactive tables and reports are now available on the BTS website, http://www.bts.gov/ that allow researchers easy access to tarmac delay data filed by the airlines. This tool allows the user to focus on a specific phase of delay: by airport, air carrier, stage of operation (taxi in, taxi out, tarmac time at diverted airports), and length of delay over 1 hour. For example, a data user can now pull up all delays between 2 and 3 hours at JFK Airport during taxi out, or can search for all delays longer than 1 hour for a specific airline. This dynamic tool has added flexibility and power to those researching airline delays.
Chronically Late Airline Flights
During 2010, legislation was enacted imposing fines for aircraft tarmac waiting times longer than 3 hours and brought to light a focus on chronically delayed flights. In answer, BTS developed tables highlighting airline delays that occur repeatedly. Chronically late flights are defined as those airline flights scheduled to fly at least 10 times per month that either have been late 30 or more minutes or canceled, or any combination of the two, at least 50 percent of the time. This monthly report on the BTS website highlights specific airline flights with continuous delay problems.
Airline Oversales Report
When airline flights have been oversold, some passengers voluntarily choose to move to a later flight, usually with some type of incentives furnished by the airline. Some passengers are denied boarding and involuntarily moved to another flight, with compensation provided. The Airline Oversales Report provides data on the number of passengers inconvenienced by oversales and the dollar amounts spent by airlines on denied boarding oversales compensation. This data may now be accessed on the BTS website.
Airline Aircraft Inventory Report
A new online report has been added to the BTS website featuring aircraft fleet sizes by airline with accompanying delivery date information. Three years of data are now available with more years to be added. This report features aircraft in active use by airlines and does not include aircraft parked in a storage location.
In January 2010, BTS, in cooperation with the U.S. Maritime Administration (MARAD), published two special reports on the cruise industry:
- U.S. Ocean Passenger Terminals: Serving Larger Vessels Closer to Home and Central Transit Connections describes the trend towards larger vessels, relocating passenger terminals closer to major metropolitan areas, and transit connectivity with passenger vessel terminals.
- Ocean Passenger Vessels: Migrating South for the Winter examines the seasonal pattern of cruise departures from northern ports in the summer and southern ports in the winter.
BTS also released a special report entitled International Piracy and Armed Robbery at Sea: Hindering Maritime Trade and Water Transportation Around the World in April 2010. This report describes trends in worldwide piracy and armed robbery at sea, including piracy hotspots such as the coastal waters of East Africa, as well as the international community's response. BTS Special Reports are available via the Internet at http://www.bts.gov/publications/bts_special_report/. MARAD maintains a website providing the latest updates on "Horn of Africa Piracy," which is available at http://www.marad.dot.gov.
To provide timely information to its customer base, BTS issued the BTS Fact Sheet: Gulf Coast Ports Surrounding the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill in June 2010. This fact sheet provides a snapshot of two major seaports (New Orleans, LA, and Mobile, AL) and summary tables of other Gulf Coast seaports close to the Deepwater Horizon mobile offshore drilling unit (MODU) explosion and oil spill. The fact sheet and other maritime-related publications are available via the Internet at http://www.bts.gov/programs/maritime_program/.
The Committee on the Marine Transportation System (MTS), of which BTS is a member, and the Transportation Research Board cosponsored the Transforming the Marine Transportation System: A Vision for Research and Development in summer 2010, in Irvine, CA. The conference explored the need for research in areas such as MTS capacity, finance, resilience, and safety and security. In addition, the conference sought to foster partnerships between Federal, State, private industry, and academic institutions attendees.
National Census of Ferry Operators
In accordance with Section 1801(e) of the Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act: A Legacy for Users (SAFETEA-LU), BTS has established and maintains a national ferry database. The first census of ferry operators was conducted in 2000 for the Federal Highway Administration by the Volpe National Transportation Systems Center, which is a part of RITA. Since 2006, BTS has conducted a biennial census. The National Census of Ferry Operators (NCFO) covers the United States and its possessions, encompassing the 50 States, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands. In addition to ferry operators providing domestic service within the United States and among its possessions, foreign operators providing international services to or from at least one U.S. terminal are also covered.
The NCFO database, which is based on the census results and other data sources, contains operational data and information on ferry routes, passengers, and freight including vehicles, terminals, vessels, and other details. The NCFO database is available via the Internet at http://www.bts.gov. The 2008 NCFO survey results were made available in the summer of 2010. BTS also released a special report on the 2008 NCFO in December 2010. The NCFO database currently includes a compilation of data tables for 2000, 2006, and 2008. With refinement of the survey instrument, the data elements collected by BTS vary between survey years. The NCFO database also contains data from the U.S. Coast Guard and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
The NCFO database, which was first established after the 2000 census, allows one to retrieve the data by views, such as by operator, route segment, terminal, terminal vendor, or vessel. However, one must individually download the lookup tables and then combine them to make sense of the data. In response to customer feedback, BTS is executing plans for making the NCFO database more accessible using an interactive web query tool. In addition, BTS is developing rules for converting the data elements that vary between years and improving data mining. BTS has also launched the 2010 NCFO. The new survey instrument underwent cognitive testing to improve the question formatting and assist respondents with answering items on the form. In addition, an online reporting tool was developed to allow operators to fill out the census questionnaire via the web.
Intermodal Passenger Connectivity Database
The Intermodal Passenger Connectivity Database (IPCD) offers data on the scheduled public transportation modes serving individual passenger transportation terminals in the United States. BTS developed this database to serve as a baseline measurement of the degree of connectivity in the U.S. passenger transportation system. Since the passage of the Intermodal Surface Transportation Act (ISTEA) in 1991, all USDOT authorizing legislation has encouraged the development of intermodal links. Therefore, establishment of a baseline measurement for passenger intermodal connectivity will provide a way to measure U.S. progress toward that effort. Not only do intermodal passenger terminals provide the opportunity for travelers to connect between modes, but they also help create more livable communities by offering multiple travel mode choices in a single location to the residents of the immediate surrounding areas.
BTS is compiling the data in phases, by mode, for the IPCD. Through 2010, the database includes information on 2,566 passenger terminals671 scheduled service airline airports, 298 ferry terminals, and 1,597 rail stations, including 1,068 served only by commuter rail, 437 served only by intercity rail, and 92 served by both commuter and intercity rail. Data collection is underway for approximately 1,800 transit heavy rail (subway) and light rail (streetcar) stations, as well as intercity bus, which BTS will add during 2011. This will complete the initial data collection for all modes in the database.
BTS has been collecting the data on modes serving each terminal from numerous public sources including databases at the USDOT, published brochures and timetables from carriers and transit agencies, and information from a range of transportation websites. A mapping application is also being added to the website to show graphically intermodal passenger facilities and the modes serving them. The databases are available via the Internet for downloading as spreadsheets at http://www.transtats.bts.gov/. BTS has issued Special Reports using this data examining the degree of connectivity at intercity rail stations, airports, ferry terminals, and commuter rail stations available at http://www.bts.gov/publications/bts_special_report/.
The Intermodal Passenger Connectivity Database includes the following categories of data for each terminal record:
- terminal name, address, zip code, and metropolitan area status;
- latitude and longitude;
- number of modes serving;
- status of service for ferry (intercity and transit), bus (intercity, transit, code share/supplemental), rail (intercity, commuter, heavy rail, and light rail), and air modes;
- terminal website; and
- data sources.
The U.S. Department of Transportation sponsored the second Distracted Driving Summit in Washington, DC. There were over 500 attendees and thousands more participated via webcast. This year's summit built on last year's call to action. It brought together researchers, academics, law enforcement officers, and the families of victims to discuss ways to end the distracted driving epidemic.
Secretary Ray LaHood announced three major actions that have taken place since last year's summit: a rule banning commercial bus and truck drivers from texting on the job; a rule restricting train operators from using cell phones and other electronic devices; and a proposed rulemaking that will limit commercial truck drivers' use of all electronic devices while transporting hazardous materials. Secretary LaHood also commended the thousands of U.S. companies that have imposed distracted driving policies of their own.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, distracted driving-related crashes caused nearly 5,500 deaths and 450,000 injuries during 2009.
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration also published a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) in December 2010 that would specifically prohibit interstate commercial truck and bus drivers from using hand-held cell phones while operating a commercial motor vehicle. For additional information on distracted driving and this NPRM, please visit http://www.distraction.gov.
National Household Travel Survey
The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), Office of Highway Policy and Information, released the most recent National Household Travel Survey (NHTS) in 2009. It is the foremost official national source of information on travel by the American public, providing information on the travel behavior of all ages, by all modes, and for all purposes. The data are widely used to estimate fatality rates, develop congestion statistics, identify mobility issues, understand changes in the vehicle fleet and use, and provide insight for policy development on a range of topics. Federal agencies have periodically conducted a survey since 1969, providing information on important trends in travel demand and travel behavior by the U.S. population.
The NHTS is the largest travel survey in the world with over 150,000 total households in the sample. The study encompasses two parts: a national sample that has remained consistent over time and covers all 50 States and the District of Columbia, and an "Add-On" Program in which State Departments of Transportation (DOT) as well as Metropolitan Planning Organizations can purchase additional samples for use in their own local planning. The Add-On Program has grown since 1995, its first year. In the 2009 NHTS, 20 States and local areas participated, purchasing over 125,000 household samples.
Below is a list of the 20 Add-On Program participants in the 2009 NHTS:
- California DOT
- Cedar Rapids Regional, IA
- Chittenden County, VT
- Florida DOT
- Georgia DOT
- Indiana DOT
- Iowa DOT
- New York State DOT
- North Carolina DOT
- Omaha, NE
- Phoenix, AZ
- Piedmont Regional, NC
- South Carolina DOT
- South Dakota DOT
- Tennessee DOT
- Texas DOT
- Tucson, AZ
- Vermont DOT
- Virginia DOT
- Wisconsin DOT
The 2009 NHTS improvements include a cell-phone only sample, which is used compensate for non-coverage and provide minimum sample size for low-population States. This ensures that each State can have some descriptive statistics from the survey, and helps estimate the confidence intervals for data analyses.
Improved modeling or data transferring allows the NHTS to represent statistically smaller geographic levels while maintaining confidentiality. For example, Green House Gas emissions and modeling travel demand for small and medium sized communities are currently estimated using modeled data that cannot afford large data collection efforts. In addition, they provide estimates of rural travel as well as household vehicle ownership and use.
Data visualization techniques are currently being developed to help combine statistics into more easily understood indices and graphics to assist planners and policy makers in utilizing the data. The NHTS data series is available for the public use, primarily through the website, which includes an online analysis tool for generating statistical tables. In addition, documentation, statistical reports, briefs, and frequently requested analyses are available on the site.
The 2009 NHTS and the whole survey series are now available at http://nhts.ornl.gov.
Geospatial Information Services
The RITA/BTS Geospatial Information Services (GIS) Program is the lead program for geospatial activities within the USDOT. The GIS Program is a source of spatial data and tools for transportation: http://www.bts.gov/programs/geographic_information_services/.
To emphasize the importance of geospatial data, the USDOT appointed the BTS Geospatial Information Services (GIS) Program Manager as the first Geospatial Information Officer for the USDOT. The GIS Program is the USDOT's lead for the Federal-wide National Spatial Data Infrastructure (NSDI). NSDI activities include representing USDOT in the Federal Geographic Data Committee (FGDC) and OMB e-Gov initiatives, such as the Geospatial Line of Business, as well as leading the development of transportation data content standards for the Geospatial One-Stop and providing spatial data to Data.gov, which is available at http://www.data.gov/.
The BTS GIS program worked closely with the USDOT's Office of the Secretary in developing and maintaining the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act (ARRA) website. An application developed by the program for this website, presents the accumulated awards of ARRA funds by mode of transportation for the U.S.
The BTS GIS Program also works with the various USDOT operating administrations to fill geospatial data gaps. Over the past 5 years, this effort has developed geospatial data for multimodal freight transfer facilities, Metropolitan Planning Organization boundaries, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency non-attainment area boundaries, rail bridges at water crossings, road bridges from the National Bridge Inventory, highway weigh-in-motion stations, highway automated traffic recorder stations, highway hazardous materials routes, ferry routes, and alternative fueling stations. In 2011, the BTS program will collaborate with the Federal Railroad Administration to develop a geospatial database of rail bridges for highway crossings.
The BTS GIS Program annually produces the National Transportation Atlas Databases (NTAD), which was originally mandated by Congress in the Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act of 1991, and that mandate was continued in each subsequent transportation authorization. NTAD is a set of nationwide geospatial databases of transportation facilities, transportation networks, and associated infrastructure. These datasets, compiled from data provided by other USDOT operating administrations and Federal agencies, include geospatial information for transportation modal networks and intermodal terminals, as well as the related attribute information for these features. These data support research, analysis, and decision-making across all modes of transportation. They are most useful at the national level, but have major applications at regional, State, and local levels throughout the transportation community. The NTAD serves as the transportation theme of the NSDI.
The BTS GIS Program develops GIS and web applications to assist transportation analysts in performing complex geospatial analyses. The web applications assist USDOT offices to improve their reach and communication with customers, and give BTS customers' new ways to utilize the BTS data. The web applications listed here, are now or will be viewable on the BTS website at http://www.bts.gov:
RITA/BTS Office of Transportation Analysis
- International Border Crossings
- State Transportation Profiles
- State Transportation Facts
RITA/BTS Office of Advanced Studies
- Intermodal Passenger Connectivity
RITA/BTS Office of Airline Information
- Commercial Flight Delays
RITA Office of Research, Development and Technology
- Research Facilities
Transportation Services Index
The publication of the Transportation Services Index (TSI), in March 2004, marked the entry of the RITA/BTS into the company of Federal statistical agencies that produce a monthly U.S. economic indicator. The index consists of two measures:
- freight transportation service, and
- passenger transportation service.
In addition, BTS creates a Total TSI by combining the freight and passenger transportation indexes. The most recent TSI data are available via the Internet at http://www.bts.gov/xml/tsi/src/index.xml.
Currently, the freight index consists of data from for-hire trucking, rail, inland waterways, pipelines and airfreight. The passenger index consists of data from air, local transit, and intercity rail. BTS used economic and statistical techniques to present the output of the different transportation modes in comparable terms, while adjusting to correct for the seasonal nature of transportation. Using 2000 as a base year with an index value of 100, the Total TSI has ranged from a value of 67 at the beginning of 1990 to approximately 102 at the end of 2009, reflecting an increase of approximately 52 percent over 19 years.
BTS has undertaken research on the turning points of the Freight TSI, possibly serving as a leading indicator for the recent recession. The recent downturn for the Freight TSI was May 2006, approximately 1 years prior to the stated start of the recession in December 2007.1 The recent upturn for the Freight TSI was May 2009, 1 month prior to the end of the recession, June 2009, as announced by the National Bureau of Economic Analysis.2 In an effort to incorporate changes in methodology and data source revisions BTS released the 2009 TSI Comprehensive Bi-Annual Revision along with the July TSI release. A detailed analysis and methodology changes are available via the Internet at http://www.bts.gov/programs/economics_and_finance/transportation_services_index/annual_revision/2009/.
National Transportation Library
The National Transportation Library (NTL) continued to refine and expand its central role in the collection and dissemination of transportation information throughout FY 2010. NTL clients and stakeholders include government staff at all levels (Federal, State, local), transportation professionals and the public. NTL's mandate includes improving the ability of transportation communities to share information and knowledge and working as a national leader and partner to improve the coordination of information collection and archiving efforts.
During FY 2010, NTL staff addressed approximately 2,000 information requests per month. The tools used to field these requests come from both the digital holdings and the extensive physical collection held in the Headquarters Branch. The NTL Digital Repository contains over 30,000 documents including significant works from the University Transportation Centers, State DOTs, transportation associations, and other research and policy institutions. An important 2010 development in the Digital Repository was the addition of new digital assets (e.g., streaming/desktop digital videos, PowerPoint presentations, Excel spreadsheets/ tables, datasets, and computer programs) to the more traditional text assets like PDF and HTML documents.
FY 2010 saw extensive growth and improvement in services in our Headquarters (HQ) Branch. Nearly 15,000 people, an average of 60 per day, visited this branch. Duplicative materials were removed from the nearly 150,000 technical and legal collections, bringing greater focus to the collection while providing much needed room for further growth. This streamlining also made it easier for library users to locate items in the collection.
During the year, the HQ library hosted over 30 research database training sessions for USDOT staff on topics including law, national politics and policy, and engineering. NTL also began work on a very important and until now underutilized HQ document collection, archiving the former USDOT Historian's collection of original USDOT historical materials.
NTL continued significant outreach activities throughout the year. NTL is helping to coordinate the growth of a National Transportation Knowledge Network (NKTN). Comprised of Regional TKNs, these networks facilitate the timely and cost effective transfer of information and knowledge among transportation libraries and information centers throughout the country. NTL is also helping to lead the Department's participation in social media tools such as Twitter, Facebook, RSS feeds, and Flickr. Another important outreach function of NTL is its central role in developing a metadata standard and use of controlled vocabularies (e.g., the Transportation Research Thesaurus or TRT, the international standard transportation taxonomy and controlled vocabulary). These standards allow interoperability with other web resources and targeted access to the Digital Repository. NTL also makes the Digital Repository available to Internet search engines such as Google and Yahoo! through implementation of Google Sitemaps and other protocols.
NTL will continue to provide support for the USDOT's American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) efforts by receiving, reviewing, and responding to all of the Department's ARRA telephone and email inquiries within 24 hours of receipt.
Incorporating Customer Feedback
Beginning in January 2010, BTS implemented the American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI) for the BTS website to monitor and address user satisfaction with the responsiveness of information and products delivered through http://www.bts.gov. As a proactive approach to integrating customer feedback into decisions for BTS products, programs, services, and initiatives, BTS regularly reviews and incorporates findings into its data collection and other activities. ACSI is the only uniform, national, cross-industry measure of satisfaction with the quality of goods and services available in the United States. In 1999, the Federal Government selected ACSI to be a standard metric for measuring citizen satisfaction. Over 100 Federal Government agencies have used ACSI to measure citizen satisfaction of more than 200 services and programs.
International Data Exchanges
The North American Transportation Statistics Online Database (NATS-OD) is an international data exchange effort between the United States, Canada, and Mexico. A product of the NATS Interchange established in 1991, the NATS database provides three-country comparative information on transportation activity and its impact. It covers the following subject areas: country overview, transportation and the economy, transportation safety, transportation's impact on energy and the environment, domestic freight activity, North American merchandise trade, international merchandise trade, domestic passenger travel, North American passenger travel, international passenger travel, transportation infrastructure, and vehicles. The NATS database is available via the Internet at http://nats.sct.gob.mx.
The NATS-OD highlights the importance of the various modes of transportation involved in the movement of goods between Canada, Mexico, and the United States, and presents statistics indicating the relationships among transportation, international trade, economy, security, energy and the environment. North America is balancing security, safety, and environmental concerns while simultaneously facilitating the free flow of people and goods. The transportation data disseminated through the Interchange is a significant resource for both the public and decisionmakers to draw upon in achieving this balance.
The XXIV North American Transportation Statistics Interchange was held from June 21-23, 2010. Cosponsored by Transport Canada and Statistics Canada; the NATS Interchange was held at Statistics Canada Headquarters in Ottawa, Canada. One of the key focus areas of this year's Interchange was the further development of transportation energy and environment indicators of the NATS-OD. A new indicator on the fuel efficiency of new vehicles is scheduled to be released in November 2010.
Transportation Research Board
In 2010, RITA/BTS continued to support the diverse research of the National Academy of Sciences' Transportation Research Board (TRB). The TRB is the division of the National Research Council that promotes innovation and progress in transportation through research.
RITA/BTS staff participated in the TRB's 89th Annual Meeting, which had the theme of Investing in Our Transportation FutureBold Ideas to Meet BIG Challenges, including the nearly 3,000 presentations and 600 sessions as well as TRB's mid-year meeting held each Summer. With over 200 standing committees, TRB offers RITA/BTS the opportunity share knowledge and perspectives in transportation research, policy, and practice with other transportation professionals.
Administered through the TRB and sponsored by RITA, the National Cooperative Freight Research Program (NCFRP) conducts applied freight transportation research. BTS and RITA staff supports the NCFRP by contributing to the oversight committee and assisting in choosing research projects for funding. They acted as liaisons to project panels that develops the Statements of Work, drafted and issued a Request for Proposal for funded projects, selected the contractor, and provided guidance to the contractor during the course of the research project.
During 2010, RITA/BTS staff also participated in the TRB administrated cooperative research programs, including the Hazardous Materials Cooperative Research Program (HMCRP), Transit Cooperative Research Program (TCRP), and the National Cooperative Highway Research Program (NCHRP). They supported the HMCRP oversight committee and project panels in the same manner as the NCFRP by RITA/BTS staff, while contributions to the NCHRP and TCRP involved participation in project panels.
Key Transportation Indicators
The BTS Key Transportation Indicators (KTI) project collects the latest monthly and quarterly data on conditions in the transportation sector. The principal focus is on information that reflects short-term fluctuations in the greater context of the economy, as reflected by the movement of goods and people, and the conditions within which both are transported. Recent developments include displaying the files by category, and compiling and publishing a reference page that has links to data that are not already published in the KTI (often because these additional data series are more influenced by long-term policy decisions).
BTS collects data for and publishes the KTI every 2 months. Data are broken down into categories, including general economic data and mode-specific data, such as fuel prices, end-user prices, passenger usage, freight usage, system performance, and capital expenditures. As of the end of FY 2010, there are 23 data files. Research to fill in data gaps is ongoing. BTS added a link to the KTI on the front page of the BTS website, which is available at http://2bts.rita.dot.gov/publications/key_transportation_indicators/, to help users navigate to the information.
1 Possible explanations for the long lead with the current recession include the rising cost of fuel that occurred in 2005 and 2006, and unique aspects of the current recession, such as its magnitude and the housing and financial crisis that preceded it.