The National Academies

NCHRP 08-36/Task 129 [Completed]

Scoping Study to Establish Standards and Guidance for Data for Transportation Planning and Traffic Operations Purposes
[ NCHRP 08-36 (Research for the AASHTO Standing Committee on Planning) ]

  Project Data
Funds: $80,000
Research Agency: Cambridge Systematics, Inc.
Principal Investigator: Anita Vandervalk
Effective Date: 6/18/2015
Completion Date: 11/1/2016



A great deal of work has been done to establish data needs for transportation, but little has been done to identify standards and guidance that should be applied to data for transportation purposes.  In engineering fields this is less true, but in the burgeoning fields of performance based measurement and planning, establishing standards for quantitative and qualitative data is critical.  To this end it is necessary to perform research to determine what those standards and guidelines could be.  A complete research plan to address this would include determining the feasibility of developing standards and guidance, and if it is determined to be feasible, developing an implementation plan and technical assistance that facilitates their use.


Agency resources are being stretched to their limits at the same time as technology develops and drives change.  Practitioners face greater and greater demands to do “more with less”.  Data have to be more versatile, more useful and more re-usable than ever before.  Establishing standards and guidance for the collection, use and maintenance of data for transportation uses will effectively and efficiently enable data to meet these multiple goals,  saving time and the resources required for the daily work of performance based transportation planning,


There is currently no established standard and little overall guidance on the collection, use and maintenance of data for transportation purposes that explicitly looks at cost benefit, time savings and versatility and usability of data.  There is a large body of research on data, and recommendations for national investment in data (TRB Special Report 304: How We Travel: A Sustainable National Program for Travel Data); this work complements that prior research and is the logical next step.  With the new emphasis on performance management, planning and operations collection, use and maintenance of shared data will become increasingly important.

Project Objective 


The objectives of this research were to (1) examine the feasibility of conducting research that will produce potential standards and guidance for the collection and maintenance of data used by transportation agencies and local and regional transportation planning agencies in performance-based transportation planning, and (2) create a research problem statement for accomplishing that research.  New sources and types of data, including Big Data, and how to leverage these emerging data sources were considered.  An initial assessment of the applicability of “Big Data” analytical methods to transportation planning and traffic engineering was assessed to determine whether additional research and development is warranted.

The Final Product is the research report.

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