Data needs assessment for making transportation decisions in Virginia.
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Data needs assessment for making transportation decisions in Virginia.

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  • Abstract:
    To better plan, operate, and maintain the transportation system in Virginia, this study identifies Virginia transportation

    professionals’ planning-related data needs, obstacles to fulfilling those needs, and potential solutions for overcoming those


    Based on interviews with practitioners, a survey of 182 professionals, and a review of data management practices in the

    literature, the study finds that needs vary by organizational type: whereas only 41% of the Virginia Department of Transportation

    (VDOT) survey respondents have at least one unmet data need, this percentage climbs to 70% for metropolitan planning

    organization and local respondents. When all respondents were asked to name, out of 51 databases, those that were needed but

    not available, almost one-fifth of all respondents cited three databases relating to infrastructure, safety, and operations; in Virginia

    these databases are known as roadway network system (RNS), Highway Safety Improvement Program (HSIP), and data

    maintained by the Traffic Operations Center (TOC), respectively.

    A primary obstacle to meeting data needs is data availability: some proprietary data owned by VDOT cannot legally be

    shared with external agencies, some datasets are restricted in how they can be shared due to security concerns, and some datasets

    can be shared but are not known to external partners. Other obstacles include data quality, time required to access datasets, and

    database diversity as the survey suggested that planners need access to a wider variety of databases than do other types of

    transportation professionals.

    Potential solutions documented in the report are to increase user awareness through seminars or the creation of a

    transportation data map, improve ease of access for select users through the use of virtual private networks, improve ease of use

    through providing a single location as a starting point for acquiring some publicly available existing data, and integrate databases

    in instances where common data elements allow such integration. In the short term, two recommended courses of action appear

    feasible: (1) conduct a workshop to make external partners and VDOT staff aware of some of these diverse databases, and (2)

    conduct periodic meetings of planning, information technology, and research staff to identify ways to enhance data sharing.

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