BTS. First, it required the agency’s director to establish a standing committee of external advisors (the Advisory Council on Transportation Statistics) to advise BTS on transportation statistics and analyses. Second, ISTEA called for the National Academy of Sciences [National Research Council (NRC)] to conduct a study of the adequacy of USDOT’s data collection procedures and capabilities.

Previous NRC Review

BTS’s start-up operations and achievements during its first 4 years are reviewed in the 1997 NRC report, The Bureau of Transportation Statistics: Priorities for the Future (Citro and Norwood 1997). The study committee found that BTS had achieved a great deal, even though, as expected, the agency had not accomplished all its assigned agenda in such a short period. The committee urged BTS to focus its future efforts on data quality issues and to address the relevance of transportation data for policy making, program planning, and research use. The committee also strongly recommended that the U.S. Congress reauthorize BTS for another 6 years. This recommendation was fulfilled in the 1997 Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century (TEA-21), which authorized BTS at an annual funding level of $31 million for the 6-year period from 1998 through 2003.

Charge to the Committee

The present review of BTS’s survey programs was requested by the agency in 2001, against the backdrop of the impending reauthorization of TEA-21. The study committee was asked to review BTS’s current survey programs in light of

  • Transportation data needs for policy planning and research and

  • Characteristics and functions of an effective statistical agency.

For each of the agency’s three major surveys—the National Household Travel Survey (NHTS), the Commodity Flow Survey (CFS), and the Omnibus Survey Program—the committee was asked to comment on priority transportation data needs and recommend approaches that BTS can use to meet the needs of the variety of data users over time. The committee was also asked to provide guidance and suggest procedures BTS

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