Data Needs Assessment for Making Transportation Decisions in Virginia

Report No: 15-R23

Published in 2015

About the report:

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 obstacles.

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.

Disclaimer Statement:The contents of this report reflect the views of the author(s), who is responsible for the facts and the accuracy of the data presented herein. The contents do not necessarily reflect the official views or policies of the Virginia Department of Transportation, the Commonwealth Transportation Board, or the Federal Highway Administration. This report does not constitute a standard, specification, or regulation. Any inclusion of manufacturer names, trade names, or trademarks is for identification purposes only and is not to be considered an endorsement.


Other Authors

Asad J. Khattak, Ph.D., Xin Wang, Ph.D., Sanghoon Son, Ph.D., Jun Liu

Last updated: November 12, 2023

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