The National Academies

NCHRP 08-165 [Pending]

Use of Active Transportation Data in Decision-Making

  Project Data
Funds: $550,000
Contract Time: 30 months
Staff Responsibility: Jennifer L. Weeks


Active transportation modes have become an increasingly important element of transportation networks in urban, suburban, and rural communities alike. Active transportation networks and infrastructure contribute toward efforts to reach a wide variety of transportation goals related to issues such as mobility, accessibility, emissions reduction, public health, equity, quality of life, economic development, and more. 

While public interest in active transportation such as walking, biking, and rolling grows, many transportation agencies are challenged to fully understand and communicate the true costs and benefits of these modes in a decision-making context. One area of particular challenge is the integration of data on active transportation into decision-making. Data requirements for decision-making are particularly of concern as the interest in investing in active transportation grows. Not only is access to data an issue, but also how to interpret, understand, and apply data to make better and more informed decisions about current and future transportation networks.   

Research is needed to provide informed technical direction to transportation and other professionals on how to identify, access, collect, store, interpret, understand, and apply active transportation data in transportation planning, design, operations and maintenance, safety, performance management, funding, and other decision-making. 


The objective of this research is to develop a guide on how to identify, access, collect, store, interpret, understand, analyze, and use active transportation data in transportation-related decision-making processes. 

The guide should, at a minimum, include the following elements: 

1. An organized compendium or matrix of active transportation data sources with information on how to access, collect, understand, and apply these resources in a decision-making context. The compendium should provide an easy organizational structure for summarizing the data types and sources, identifying the strengths and weaknesses of each data source, and summarizing the data sources that are best for application in different analytical and decision types. The compendium should be contained within the guide but can be designed for dissemination and use as an independent product.

2. Qualitative and quantitative data and data sources for informing different needs and performance of active transportation in a decision-making context; 

3. Instructions on how to select, interpret, understand, and apply active transportation data at all phases and milestones of transportation decision-making;

4. Case studies or other illustrative applications of different types and sources of active transportation data in practice;

5. Content and direction related to the unique needs of urban, rural, and suburban areas as well as statewide, regional, and local-level decision contexts; and

6. Content and direction appropriate for decision-making by agencies with different levels of experience and maturity using active transportation data. 



Task 1. Conduct a literature review on the use of active transportation data in transportation planning, finance, environment, design, traffic engineering, operations, construction, maintenance, and safety. The focus should be both on the decisions being made that benefit from the consideration of active transportation data and on identifying and summarizing the strengths, costs, and limitations of different data sources in the decision-making context.

Task 2. Conduct a global industry scan of the state of practice with respect to the use of active transportation data in agency decision-making supporting planning, programming, project development and delivery, operations, construction, maintenance, and safety. Consider embedded decision-making points within processes such as environmental reviews, land use decisions, traffic analysis, alternative analysis, design, traffic engineering, work zones, and safety. The scan should include an assessment of the methods and resources required to access, collect, analyze, and apply active transportation data to support these decision-making processes. 

Task 3. Conduct a gap analysis of active transportation data needs. What opportunities are there to apply active transportation data in a decision-making context, especially data that are not widely recognized or in use?

The gap analysis shall include outreach to and engagement of active transportation practitioners from the public and private sectors including representatives of transportation advocacy and user groups; transportation system and facility design; real estate and economic development; and other appropriate industries and user groups to identify trends and needs in active transportation data that would facilitate a more effective and safe integration of active transportation into the transportation landscape.

Proposals should identify the preferred method or methods of practitioner outreach in their proposals, such as through surveys, interviews, or workshops. The proposal should also identify how these individuals and groups would be selected for participation. Proposers should feel free to recommend other activities required for completing a gap analysis, as determined appropriate.  

Task 4. Develop an annotated outline of the guide and compendium of data sources for review by the panel and NCHRP. 

Task 5. Develop and execute a plan for product validation and testing of the final deliverables through the engagement of industry experts and practitioners. 

The proposal shall specify a strategy to test the effectiveness of the products to practitioners seeking to expand and enhance the use of active transportation data in decision-making. At a minimum, the following activities are expected to be part of this process: (1) engage outside subject-matter experts to review and provide input to the content and format of the guide and other products proposed; and (2) recruit and select appropriate state departments of transportation and other agencies to “test drive” the draft product or products in a “real world setting” to demonstrate the benefits of the guide and provide additional input on content, design, and other factors that would improve the value of the materials to decision-makers. 

This task should culminate in a report that specifies (1) lessons learned from the engagement conducted; and (2) proposed modifications to the final products to respond to input received, including any changes in content, format, design, or any product additions that might be proposed, such as communications materials, tools, or graphics. 

Task 6. Develop a Phase II work plan that outlines lessons learned from the data gathered in Phase I. The work plan shall identify any additional data collection, document or product modification, or other tasks to be undertaken by the research team in Phase II to reach the research objective.

Task 7. Develop an Interim Report documenting the research process and information collected to date, specifying lessons learned, gaps identified, and areas of emphasis to be integrated into the final deliverables of this project.



Work in Phase II will focus on applying the approved Phase II work plan to develop final deliverables that respond to input documented in Tasks 5 to 7 of Phase I. Anticipated deliverables include, but are not necessarily limited to:

  • A guide to the use of active transportation data in transportation decision-making, with a focus on accessing, maintaining, processing, interpreting, and applying data to specific decisions and decision types;
  • A compendium of active transportation data sources that summarizes methods to access, collect, and manage each data source; the benefits and challenges of using each data source; and potential uses of each data source in decision-making;
  • A stand-alone technical memorandum that identifies implementation opportunities and lays out a process for disseminating and encouraging pilot application or other implementation of the products of this research in practice; and
  • A stand-alone conduct of research report documenting the project activities.


STATUS: Proposals have been received in response to the RFP.  The project panel will meet to select a contractor to perform the work.


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