survey programs with budgets on the order of $10 million to $15 million serve a broad constituency of organizations and individuals interested in transportation, providing essential data that are not available from other sources. Users include USDOT, other federal agencies, the U.S. Congress, state departments of transportation, metropolitan planning organizations, consulting companies, academia, think tanks, and industry associations.
The committee views the flagship surveys as essential to the BTS mission of providing statistical information to support transportation decision making. Therefore, the committee’s analyses and recommendations focus on opportunities for BTS to improve these flagship surveys. The Omnibus surveys, by contrast, are small-scale, quick-response efforts with relatively modest budgets. Initiated in 2000, the Omnibus program of customer satisfaction surveys serves primarily clients within USDOT and, in the committee’s judgment, constitutes a small component of the BTS survey portfolio. Nonetheless, the committee was concerned that the variable quality of surveys conducted under the Omnibus program, combined with inadequate procedures for approving these surveys, could undermine BTS’s credibility as an independent provider of transportation data.
To develop cost-effective, high-quality surveys responsive to the needs of data users, BTS has to communicate effectively with its customers. A better understanding of the types of questions and analytical problems addressed by users would help BTS develop relevant data products. In addition, many users could provide BTS with valuable suggestions about data concepts, methods, and products in the context of a dialogue about the agency’s survey development and design activities.
In general, BTS’s outreach activities for communicating with users of its personal travel and freight surveys have been sporadic. Some initiatives, such as the 1999 conference to discuss the proposed new personal travel survey (the NHTS),1 have been valuable in facilitating discussions of spe-