The National Academies

NCHRP 08-36/Task 128 [Completed]

Data Visualization Methods for Transportation Agencies
[ NCHRP 08-36 (Research for the AASHTO Standing Committee on Planning) ]

  Project Data
Funds: $100,000
Research Agency: Cambridge Systematics, Inc.
Principal Investigator: Nathan Higgins
Effective Date: 6/18/2015
Completion Date: 6/17/2016


Sharing technical transportation data in ways that both inform and enhance understanding is both necessary and challenging.  With the advent of performance-based planning and programming, transportation agencies are finding it essential to relay information across a number of performance areas in ways that are easily understood by a broad audience.  Data visualization methods can be especially effective in analyzing, mapping, displaying, and reporting a wide range of data to support planning functions; however, research is needed to produce a systematic classification of data visualization methods and an assessment of how these methods can best be used by local agencies and state transportation departments to enhance the analytical process.  It is not only important to share the data, but also to explain the decisions that result from analyzing that data.  Visualization techniques can enhance both objectives.


The types of data addressed by this approach include but are not limited to travel-related data, environmental information, safety data, Highway Performance Monitoring System (HPMS) reporting, asset management information, and operations data.  These data resources are representative of the range of information that modern systems are currently displaying and reporting as an aid to the planning profession.  Given the continuing demand for information sharing to facilitate effective decision-making, there is a critical need for guidance on how to identify and select effective data visualization tools and techniques.  


Project Objective:

The objective of this research is to evaluate Design Visualization Methods and their applicability to transportation planning and analysis.  This study will produce a systematic classification of tools and techniques that can be employed for analyzing, displaying and reporting information, and it will provide guidance on how to select the most appropriate tools and techniques as a function of the desired application. This research should address relatively simple and commonly available DVMs as well as those that are more complex and/or expensive.  It should not address project design and construction project visualization.  The final report should be written for state and local transportation planners and analysts, and should include the following information at a minimum: 

1.      A literature review and a list of external resources where appropriate.

2.      From that review, a description of the types of methods (a collection of tools and techniques) that exist and that may or may not be used in transportation.

3.      Suggested visualization methods for specific purposes that are also summarized in a matrix.

4.      Basic types of visualization methods (not specific vendors and platforms) and types of analytical results they are used to communicate.

5.      The types of information that need to be communicated, and guidance on how to select the most appropriate visualization method(s).

6.      An assessment of the types of tools that work best for analyzing, mapping, displaying, reporting, and sharing the different types of information.

7.      Examples of how others have used data visualization tools effectively to share data, along with brief descriptions of the data used, how the data were manipulated or integrated with other sources, and how the visualization was created.   

Status: The final report is now available as Web Only Document 226.

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