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3 CHAPTER 1 Introduction Background changing as a result of the expanded availability of Internet access, rapid improvements in search technology, and an Transportation practitioners have an unprecedented level of increasingly diverse and differentiated set of information direct access to a vast pool of information, including standards, products (RSS feeds, videos, digests, data sets). The trans- statistics, research reports, journal articles, guidebooks, and portation research community has long recognized the need Web pages. Documents can be obtained in seconds from the for a paradigm shift in the way information is defined, cre- comfort of one's office with a few clicks of the mouse. However, ated, captured, synthesized, and delivered. This paradigm despite the explosion of available information on the Internet, shift must involve new products and services, new technol- substantial gaps exist in our ability to efficiently and reliably find ogy, and new organizational arrangements and partnerships. what we need for the task at hand. Part of the problem is related Work sponsored by AASHTO and TRB over the past several to the sheer volume of information and the challenge of "sepa- years has provided some understanding of needs and expecta- rating the wheat from the chaff." Despite the existence of good tions of transportation information consumers. It has also pro- Internet search tools, discovering and accessing needed infor- vided a vision for how to meet these needs efficiently by pooling mation takes too long, and the process is "hit or miss." resources and tapping into available technology. TRB Special On the supply side, many useful documents are never made Report 284 (2) provides a blueprint for how transportation broadly available or are not available on the portion of the information is to be efficiently and effectively collected, pre- World Wide Web that is indexed by search engines. Others are served, and disseminated to researchers, policy makers, and available for a time but never incorporated into a stable, per- practitioners. The blueprint presents a vision of a group of sistent repository. As a result of these gaps, we waste valuable independent TKNs with membership from state DOTs, uni- time and miss opportunities to learn from the mistakes and versities, local and regional transportation agencies, private sec- successes of others, to take the straightest line between two tor transportation providers, associations, and the engineering/ points, and to begin where others have left off rather than consulting community. These TKNs are regionally based, with repeating what has already been done. one representing federal agencies. Each TKN works in a coor- Given the current economic picture and demographic dinated and cooperative fashion to meet the needs of its user trends, effectively capturing and sharing knowledge is more community, sharing resources in order to stretch limited dol- important than ever. A 2003 study (1) found that 50 percent of lars and avoid unnecessary duplication of effort. TRB Special the state transportation agency workforce will be eligible to Report 284 envisioned a national coordinating structure located retire within the next 10 years. Shrinking revenues are forcing within the U.S.DOT Research and Innovative Technology many agencies to cut budgets and reduce staff. As transporta- Administration (RITA) that would build on the current tion agencies face retirement of their most experienced person- functions of the National Transportation Library (NTL). The nel, sharing information across the transportation community TKN National Coordinating Body (TKN-NCB) would pro- and improving ways for less experienced staff to find the infor- vide leadership (policy, guidance, coordination), national mation they need to be efficient and effective is becoming infrastructure for information sharing (technology, stan- increasingly important. dards), and support the regional TKNs with seed grants and Funding for transportation libraries at the national, state, other assistance. SR 284 recommended an independent advi- and regional levels has been shrinking. At the same time, the sory body to provide policy direction and oversight to the needs and expectations of information consumers have been National Coordinating Body.