The National Academies

NCHRP 08-167 [Pending]

Guide for Creating Effective Transportation Visualizations

  Project Data
Funds: $375,000
Contract Time: 24 months
Staff Responsibility: Christopher T. McKenney
Comments: Contract pending at this time.


Visualizations are graphical representations of information and data, which can be an effective tool for state departments of transportation (DOTs) and other transportation agencies to communicate their vision in a clear and concise manner. Effective data visualization has the power to dramatically improve the safety and efficiency of the transportation system by providing information, informing policy and decision-making, and influencing public response and behavior. Selecting and designing effective visualizations can be a considerable task for transportation agencies communicating with various audiences and stakeholders as well as developing methods to evaluate the effectiveness of visualizations that could significantly enhance their impact. Addressing the creation and evaluation of effective visualizations together can create a feedback loop that enables and promotes continuous improvement.

DOTs and other transportation agencies have invested considerable time and expertise in developing visualizations for performance measures and need to communicate results effectively to multiple audiences. However, there are limited resources and information available to transportation agencies that addresses the identification and creation of effective visualizations and the evaluation of visual effectiveness. By developing a roadmap for state DOTs and other transportation agencies in the early development stages of their visualization implementation programs can provide the opportunity for well-established programs seeking industry feedback to increase the effectiveness of their visualizations.

Research is needed to assist state DOTs and other transportation agencies to improve decision-making through effective visualizations to increase safety, security, and mobility.


The objective of this research is to develop a guide for state DOTs and other transportation agencies to create and evaluate the effectiveness of transportation visualizations that can be used to improve communication and decision-making.


Anticipated tasks include:

  • Research the essential components of what makes a visualization effective;
  • Determine a methodical approach to:
    • Collect data and obtain feedback on the effectiveness of a visualization in communicating information and influencing behavior that facilitates decision-making;
    • Identify and develop effective practices for creating visualizations;
    • Identify effective practices for evaluating the effectiveness of a visualization;
    • Identify the differences in visualization methods across viewing platforms (e.g., handheld devices, tablets, laptops, and operating systems); 
    • Identify effective practices to manage the data overload that occurs in visualizations; and
    • Identify themes and concepts for communicating the research findings, scenarios, and strategies to transportation agencies’ leadership, communications staff, and other functional areas of transportation agencies as well as to external partners and stakeholders.
  • Propose a preliminary outline for the development and implementation of the guide and toolkit, highlighting key findings from the research, supported by examples; and
  • Identify options for web-hosting and long-term maintenance of the toolkit. If a long-term solution for hosting and maintenance cannot be found, the final product will be static, hosted by TRB, and should conform to the same criteria as ACRP Web Resources, see https://crp.trb.org/

The final deliverables will include:

  • A contractor’s final report with the following:
    • Documentation of the research activities and key findings;
    • A roadmap to assist transportation agencies in early development stages as they initiate or enhance visualization activities;
    • Scenarios illustrating successful strategies and practices;
    • Prioritized recommendations for future research; and
    • Other topics identified during the project.
  • A guide that (1) provides transportation agencies with options for evaluating the effectiveness of a visualization, and (2) clearly communicates how to approach a new visualization and tracking the creation process; 
  • A toolkit of online content and resources; and
  • A technical memorandum that identifies implementation pathways.


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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