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Key Transportation Indicators: Summary of a Workshop
reau of Labor Statistics; quarterly reports of gross domestic product (GDP) by the Bureau of Economic Analysis; and annual reports of poverty, high school completion and dropout rates, and births, deaths, and other vital statistics by the U.S. Census Bureau, the National Center for Education Statistics, and the National Center for Health Statistics, respectively. These indicators are important for public policy decision making. Some of them have significant effects on the economy and private-sector decisions. And, in an important sense, all of them serve to hold the government accountable to the public.
BTS is the newest federal statistical agency, established by the 1991 Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act (ISTEA) and subsequently reauthorized. The authorizing legislation charges BTS to work with other USDOT administrations, the states, and other federal officials to implement a long-term program for collecting and analyzing data on the performance of the national transportation system.
From its inception, BTS has compiled myriad indicators based on data that are regularly collected on the transportation system. These data serve many important purposes. They help to increase understanding of interactions between transportation activity and the economy, the environment, and community development and other land use. They are used to monitor changes in the performance of the transportation system, which may alert us to possible future problems. And they are useful directly in managing the transportation system. For these purposes, the data are mostly used within administrations of USDOT with responsibility over particular transportation modes, such as the Federal Highway Administration and the Federal Transit Administration and within state and local agencies, such as metropolitan planning organizations (MPOs).
But, among these many indicators, how can we select those that are most significant to public policy and to public awareness? Which of them are important measures of accountability? What indicators are most relevant to major transportation policy concerns? What indicators are most appropriate for BTS to develop in its role as a statistical agency that is concerned with broad transportation issues and all transportation modes?
This workshop considered questions such as these. Participants were also asked to think creatively about aspects of the performance of the transportation system that should be measured with indicators but are not. Are there useful, feasible indicators that are important to develop that cut across modes? Should safety indicators be based on the risk of a type of journey,