Within these pages, readers will find information on new data sources for transportation planning, their associated challenges, and incorporating these data into the planning process.     

Today, transportation planners are faced with an enormous range of available data and of methods and models to predict or analyze transportation activity. Finding and applying the right models to the given problem and informing those models with appropriate data has become an increasingly challenging process. While there is a demand for data and methods that allow more finely grained forecasts and models, this need must be balanced against the broad scale outputs and products that are necessary. The ability to accurately model detailed data must be balanced against the need to identify broader trends and a range of likely scenarios. This will evaluate the resiliency of plans and transportation performance goals in relation to potential social and environmental volatility.

Planning Data Challenges

The rise of new data sources and determining how best to incorporate them into the transportation planning process is a major area of research and consideration. At the same time, the desire to integrate private and third party datasets into the regional and community planning process is associated with a number of challenges. The following list contains a number of specific challenges associated with evolving travel behavior (considering such influences as new modes and TNCs) and integrating new data resources into the planning process:  

08-119 Research Product:

LinkerAT: Guidance and Demonstration for Improved Conflation and Geodata Reference Process

Conflation is the process of identifying common points and references to reconcile two or more geo-datasets across overlapping areas. Because of differences in scales, resolutions, and sometimes accuracy or conventions, data referring to the same location often do not have the same geographic reference and are challenging to combine. This leads to defining “near enough” criteria to expect two references to represent the same feature. The use of “near enough criteria,” while allowing several corresponding features to be merged effectively, is not perfect. LinkerAT is a prototype, open-source software tool for transportation agencies and their partners to conflate two different roadway network data sources.

Additional Resources:

NCHRP Research Report 868: Cell Phone Location Data for Travel Behavior Analysis

This paper presents guidelines for transportation planners and travel modelers on how to (1) evaluate the extent to which cell phone location data and associated products accurately depict travel, (2) identify whether and how these extensive data resources can be used to improve understanding of travel characteristics and the ability to model travel patterns and behavior more effectively, and (3) support practitioners’ evaluation of the strengths and weak

Integrating Shared Mobility into Multimodal Transportation Planning: Improving Regional Performance to Meet Public Goals 

This paper synthesizes noteworthy practices (e.g. data access and sharing, integrating shared mobility into modeling and forecasting, etc.), identifies challenges and opportunities, and provides recommendations for future research needed.

Integrating Shared Mobility into Multimodal Transportation Planning: Metropolitan Area Case Studies 

A follow-up report to Integrating Shared Mobility into Multimodal Transportation Planning: Improving Regional Performance to Meet Public Goals provides three in-depth case studies of how MPOs and their partners are interacting with shared mobility companies to integrate these new options into regional multimodal transportation networks, improving system performance and supporting regional goals.

Emerging Big Data Sources for Public Transport Planning: A Systematic Review on Current State of Art and Future Research Directions 

A systematic review of 47 contemporary research papers related to the use of novel data sources in public transportation planning. There is particular focus on assessing the usability, strengths, and weaknesses of different emerging big data sources.

All Public Roads Geospatial Representation Study: All Roads Network of Linear Referenced Data (ARNOLD) Reference Manual

This document provides practical guidance and a handy Reference Manual to assist state DOTs in moving forward to meet the new Highway Performance Monitoring System (HPMS) requirements for the submittal of complete, all roads inventories and linear-referenced networks for every state and territory. This requirement is known as ARNOLD – the All Road Network of Linear Referenced Data.

Highway Performance Monitoring System (HPMS)

The HPMS is a national level highway information system that includes data on the extent, condition, performance, use, and operating characteristics of the Nation's highways. In general, the HPMS contains administrative and extent of system information on all public roads, while information on other characteristics is represented in HPMS as a mix of universe and sample data for arterial and collector functional systems.

General Transit Feed Specification (GTFS)

GTFS defines a common format for public transportation schedules and associated geographic information. GTFS "feeds" let public transit agencies publish their transit data and developers write applications that consume the data in an interoperable way. The initial and main benefit of this standard included a free online trip planner available to the public to look up transit information and plan transit trips.

TRB Standing Committee on Statewide/National Transportation Data and Information Systems

The scope of this committee includes research and technology transfer activities pertaining to statewide transportation planning data and information systems for all modes of transportation. A primary concern is the capability of information systems to integrate various transportation related data sources into a strategic multimodal information database for statewide transportation planning. The committee serves as a forum for discussion of current planning data activities.

TRB Standing Committee on Urban Transportation Data and Information Systems

This committee is interested in the design, collection, analysis, and reporting of transportation supply and demand data needed to support urban and metropolitan transportation planning efforts. In particular, the committee is interested in developing the data requirements of new and innovative techniques for measuring and monitoring the performance of metropolitan transportation systems and in evaluating changes in demographic and urban travel characteristics.