Transportation gets in gear for data-sharing portal

System would link regional agencies, which often keep data in different formats

Transportation Department officials want to build a virtual portal so agencies can share data for regional transportation decision-making, according to a request for information released on May 3.

Part of Transportation’s Virtual Data Access project, the prototype system will be a tested and analyzed proof of concept framework for accessing and integrating transportation data to support planning for operations analyses, the RFI states. The VDA project is being proposed under the Federal Highway Administration’s Office of Operations, Office of Planning and Office of Operations Research and Development.

Transportation data varies extensively across agencies. As a result, “regional planners and operations managers often lack readily accessible, shared and well-documented data upon which to make decisions,” the RFI states. For example, multiple agencies within a region operate separately and maintain their own transportation facilities. They each have different goals and objectives, different responsibilities, capabilities and operational needs.

Each agency might collect data, archive it and/or use it in real-time for different purposes and in different formats to meet their own local requirements and not those of the broader community or regional needs. Their systems usually provide data at different levels of detail and do not communicate with each other.

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The aim of the VDA project is to address the current lack of accessible, shared, and well-documented data by improving efficiencies in five areas:

  1. Analyzing decisions in a more cohesive manner across entire regions.
  2. Understanding travel demand patterns across entire regions with jurisdictions interacting with each other.
  3. Determining performance measures for better performance management of entire regions.
  4. Validating regional travel-demand models for robust analyses.
  5. Integrating analysis and modeling tools to better determine influence that operational strategies have on traveler behavior and decisions.

Within a VDA system, data that is usually stored and hosted by its original owners would be selected and accessed by users through the use of Web technologies, such as virtual warehousing and data fusion. Through metadata and other data documentation methods, the data will be automatically redefined, cleansed and translated so as to make it usable and understandable to the broader transportation community. These technical capabilities would be supported by data-sharing agreements and data-documentation specifications, the RFI states.

The objective of the RFI is to seek broad stakeholder input and interest in the application of a VDA system within the transportation community, identify potential impacts and benefits of using the VDA system, and to gather information on tried, existing and potential VDA system operations strategies, according to DOT.

The information will assist Transportation in identifying some of the barriers to deploying VDA systems, and will support the development of a VDA project. DOT may select various innovative and pioneering VDA operations strategies for further study. Moreover, public agencies, private sector companies, and other organizations associated with the selected VDA operations strategies might be asked to provide continued input in the development of the VDA project.

Responses to this announcement should be submitted on or before May 27, 2011, to Dr. Gene McHale, (202) 493-3275, [email protected] and Dr. John Halkias (202) 366-2183, [email protected]

About the Author

Rutrell Yasin is is a freelance technology writer for GCN.


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