1. Communities need to be able to measure whether their actions are improving livability, but they often lack necessary data and face challenges in developing sound methodologies.

  2. Organizations and stakeholders often do not have consistent or comparable data, making the analysis of options and decisions more difficult.

  3. The information needed to make good decisions may not be available in usable forms.

Better data for transportation planning and decision making will allow consideration of the broad range of real consequences of transportation investments on communities and their members. In addition to considering more narrowly defined transportation consequences—for example, better transit access to major attractions, enhanced goods movement, shorter travel times—improved data will foster more insightful consideration of socioeconomic, land use, and environmental factors that help shape a community’s livability. Such factors include mobility and equity consequences across locations within a region and across stakeholder groups; impacts on land use and development patterns, and the consequences of those development patterns; the interaction of transportation operations with the natural and built environments and their impacts on sustainability, distribution of economic benefits and costs both spatially and demographically; and consequences for community cohesiveness.

Technological developments including geographic information systems (GISs) and the Internet have revolutionized the way decision-making data can be collected, analyzed, disseminated, and displayed. Current initiatives on the part of federal, state, and local governments, as well as private and nonprofit groups, to provide such data and to include the broader public in decisions have roots in the social indicators research of the 1930s and 1970s (e.g., Duncan, 1969, 1984; Rossi and Gilmartin, 1980). For example, attempts in the 1960s to understand the roots of poverty reflected the evolution of social views of the root causes and tenacity of poverty. These earlier efforts considered sets of such indicators as socioeconomic status, gender and race, education level, psychological factors, physical characteristics of living conditions, and descriptors of health status (Duncan, 1969). The decade of the 1960s and the early 1970s saw a spike in interest in the federal government for identifying indicators of social well-being and progress (U.S. Department of Health, Education, and Welfare, 1969; OMB, 1973) as part of an effort to understand the relationships between economics and other social sciences (e.g., Olson, 1969).

Previous generations have wrestled with the some of the same questions addressed in this report, for example—the appropriate scale of the

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