Transportation programs must survive in an increasingly competitive world of public policy, where tough choices must be made among public works, social programs, tax cuts, and a variety of other public functions. Budget pressures are merely the most obvious outward sign of these political and financial battles.
Developing a political consensus for the funding of transportation programs requires both an in-depth knowledge of what the public knows about transportation and what their attitudes are about the transportation problems they face every day. Modern market research techniques, including public opinion surveys and focus groups, may offer a systematic way to help provide CAOs with answers to these questions.
Private firms make considerable efforts to identify their customers' general likes and dislikes as well as to identify specific needs. Based on this information, firms design a product or service to meet the potential customer's perceived needs and then work to convince them to purchase these products or services. As with other areas of modern life, marketing has become more sophisticated and technically advanced. How can these advances be adapted to help solve the problems of state DOTs?
While the focus of recent efforts in market research has been on surveys of public feelings in general, some of the same techniques could be used to survey and assess the needs and understanding of firms or groups with a direct interest in transportation. Most such information is now presented to DOTs by trade groups, but use of the ideas discussed here might make it possible to obtain information from the public at large.
Consequently, the object of this research was to help state DOTs to add modern market research techniques to their program development and evaluation methods.
Research is complete, and the final report has been published as NCHRP Report 329, "Using Market Research to Improve Management of Transportation Systems."