Data Collection and Use
IV. Where Can Tribes Find Data?
When possible, Tribes should use existing data instead of embarking on expensive activities to collect original data. Understanding who has or owns the data is important. Data available through government agencies is often free or sold for a nominal fee. Data owned by private entities often must be purchased. Some existing data might need to be analyzed or formatted to make it useful for transportation planning purposes. This section focuses on sources of data that are readily available to Tribes at little or no cost.
Data Already Available within the Tribe
Identifying data sources within the tribal community should be the first step in the data collection process. When considering whether data is appropriate, consider how it will help tell the story of the current and future transportation system: What does the data tell me about the current or future transportation needs?
Listed below are examples of possible data sources within the tribal community:
Existing Plans, Studies, Reports, and Surveys - Whether it is a new medical clinic, school, or building permit application, decisions within the community are generally made using plans, studies, or reports. These documents often have data that could be useful in transportation planning. Tribal planners should work with the Tribe's other offices such as Indian Health Service, public safety, the school district, or public works department to identify recent studies or planning efforts that contain transportation data. Planners should discuss with these agencies how and when the data was collected and analyzed to ensure it is current and suitable for transportation planning purposes. It is best to work with raw, unanalyzed data so that the data can be analyzed to specifically address transportation issues. However, sometimes only summary data is available through final reports or studies. Summary data can be used to characterize transportation issues and trends and help determine whether additional data collection is needed.
Talk to the Tribal Community - Often, the people living and working in the community have information or access to information that could be used in transportation planning. For example, the Tribe might have information on people's opinions about various issues gathered at public meetings or focus groups. Other data such as a log of phone calls, letters, or e-mails sent to the transportation office might also contain information useful in transportation planning.
Some of the most useful data for transportation planning comes first-hand from Tribe members when they express concerns and opinions about the current and future transportation system on tribal lands. For example, transportation planners from the Lummi Nation in Washington State wanted to learn about their community's transportation concerns. The planners spoke with Tribe elders and then to others in the community. Through these conversations, they learned that young people frequently walked on unlit roads at night. Without street lights or special light-reflective clothing or accessories, drivers could not see the pedestrians. This observation highlighted the need for more roadway lighting and pedestrian safety education. Both issues were included in the Tribe's LRTP.
Another example is from the Navajo Nation. After completing a first draft of the Tribe's 2030 LRTP, transportation planners wanted to hear from the community how they felt about the initial draft of the plan. While it was difficult to get people to attend the meeting and provide comments, the Navajo Nation nonetheless received many questions and comments about the plan. These helped the Navajo Department of Transportation revise the draft plan to include additional issues and strategies that were important to the Tribe.
The list below contains possible local sources of data:
- Casino operators might collect demographic, socioeconomic, and other types of data to learn about current and potential customers.
- Indian Health Service might collect data on transportation needs for their clients. To find your local Indian Health Service facility, go to http://www.ihs.gov/index.cfm?module=AreaOffices
- Tribal government agencies usually have a range of demographic, safety, land use, socioeconomic, and other types of data relevant to transportation planning. Documents such as planning and land use policies or results from environmental, household, or transportation performance surveys could provide valuable data.
- State and local police departments keep detailed crash data. Crash data generally includes where and when the crash occurred, whether anyone was injured or killed, and contributing factors such as weather, speed, or driver behavior that might have played a role in the crash.
- Day care centers, Head Start programs, dial-a-ride services, and meal delivery programs offer demographic, socioeconomic and possibly transportation data for people with special transportation needs. This data can help inform transportation planners about where special-needs populations live, where they need to go, and how they use the current transportation system.
- Public school administrative offices collect various kinds of data on students. In addition, maps of school districts can be helpful for planning purposes. They can be found at the National Center for Education Statistics website (http://nces.ed.gov/surveys/sdds/index.aspx). The maps offer demographic and economic data, such as per capita income, as well as geographic information for mapping.
- Libraries often have copies of plans, studies, and reports from many different local, regional, and State agencies. Many libraries provide free access to online databases offering a broad range of demographic, economic, safety, and other data useful for transportation planning.
- Medical and public health facilities collect data that might include some transportation-related statistics such as where patients live and what types of transportation they use to get to the facilities.
- Local colleges or university extensions often include urban planning and agricultural extension departments that use or develop data related to transportation, public policies, economics, and demographics.
- Freight shipping facilities such as private port operators, airline carriers, or freight carriers at nearby airports, seaports, or land-based port operations might provide information about how shippers use the transportation system or how proposed changes might affect their operations. Available data might include the number of airline passengers, cargo shipments, cargo tonnage, and landing fees. However, the data belongs to private port or shipping companies who consider it private information about their business operations; and, therefore, may be reluctant to offer or sell the data.
- Area businesses and employers often collect descriptive (qualitative) information about their customers and employees. This data can help to understand when the most customers are traveling to and from the business, traffic volume when shift changes occur, or where customers and employees begin their trips.
- State, county, and city departments of transportation typically collect information on demographics, land use, economic activity, travel time, travel safety, and other data useful for transportation planning and decisionmaking. This can help a Tribe understand traffic conditions when its transportation system meets up with the transportation network outside Indian land.
- Metropolitan planning organizations (MPO) are regional government agencies required by Federal law to conduct transportation planning and programming for a metropolitan area. Data collected, analyzed, and used by an MPO might be helpful to Tribes that are doing transportation planning similar to that done by the local MPO. Where tribal land is located within the boundary of the metropolitan area, the MPO probably collects data about transportation on these lands. Even in cases where tribal lands are located outside the MPO planning area, the MPO might collect data about transportation in and around tribal lands to understand the impacts and influences of the Tribe's transportation network on transportation within the MPO's designated planning area. A list of MPOs by state can be found at http://www.planning.dot.gov/mpo.asp.
- State departments of revenue and finance might be able to provide demographic and socioeconomic data including taxes, income, property values, and other related topics.
- State departments of motor vehicles collect data on licensed drivers and vehicles such as the number of registered vehicles, the type of vehicles, and number of licensed drivers.
- State departments of natural resources focus their data collection on natural resources, recreational areas, and other related topics. This data is helpful in transportation planning to ensure that transportation planning considers the impacts on natural resources.
Data Available on the Internet
The Internet is a good source of data, especially from government agencies. In some cases, the raw data is not available. Instead, it is available only by category such as ranges for income or property values. However, even in this format, data sets can help characterize area-wide trends, issues, and future needs. The websites listed below contain data relevant to tribal transportation planning.
- IRR Inventory (http://www.bia.gov/WhoWeAre/BIA/OIS/Transportation/IRR/index.htm) has information on roads, route numbers, bridges, current and projected future traffic volumes, maintenance responsibilities, and road ownership on Indian lands.
- The Federal Highway Administration (http://www.fhwa.dot.gov/policyinformation/index.cfm) has reports and other publications that contain statistics on highway performance and conditions.
- The Federal Transit Administration/National Transit Database (http://www.ntdprogram.gov/ntdprogram) has data on public transportation including ridership, safety, and rural transportation.
- The Bureau of Indian Affairs (http://www.bia.gov/) has results from transportation or traffic studies it has conducted for specific tribal areas. Tribal planners can also request maps or land-ownership information for specific roadway projects.
- The United States Census Bureau (http://www.census.gov) has detailed information on a wide variety of topics including socio-economic data, population, number of houses per square mile, population by age, occupation, daily commutes, and income per person.
- The Census Bureau Topologically Integrated Geographic Encoding and Referencing Files (known as TIGER files) (http://www.census.gov/geo/www/tiger) provide maps and other information on features such as roads, railways, rivers, and lakes.
- The United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (http://www.bls.gov) has labor-related information such as unemployment rates, types of jobs in a specific area, and locations of major employment centers.
- Bureau of Transportation Statistics (http://www.rita.dot.gov/bts/) has a range of information on demographics, transportation, traffic, system conditions, and safety. Depending on the search topic, the database might refer the users to other databases offering information on transit, rail, highways, bicycle, and pedestrian activities (http://www.transtats.bts.gov/).
- The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (http://www.nhtsa.gov/) has data on motor-vehicle-related safety issues such as crash rates and locations, crash severity, drivers under the influence of drugs or alcohol, and causes of crashes.
- The National Highway Institute (http://www.nhi.fhwa.dot.gov/default.aspx) provides courses on transportation and land use planning, travel demand forecasting, data collection, and many other topics.
- The United States Department of Health and Human Services Indian Health Service () has information from studies on health care delivery and safety for Indian Tribes. These might contain useful demographic information. For more detailed health care information, results, and fact sheets see http://www.ihs.gov/index.cfm?module=About.
- The United States Geological Survey (http://www.usgs.gov) has maps on natural resources, aerial photographs, digital maps, land use, flooding, and geological information. It might also offer results of geological studies in certain areas, as well as satellite images of those areas.
- Google Maps (http://maps.google.com) has free aerial photographs, maps, and other geographic information. The Google Earth program can be downloaded for free from http://earth.google.com/.
- State Geographic Information Systems (GIS) Clearinghouses may store all the State's GIS data. GIS are programs that display data on maps based on location. A list of GIS and map resources for each state is provided at http://libweb.uoregon.edu/map/map_section/map_Statedatasets.html.
Partnerships to Develop Data
Data collection can be very costly. Partnering is an effective way to reduce costs. For example, surveys are often the only way to obtain current, accurate, and detailed information. However, they are usually very expensive to conduct. Tribes can partner with other organizations interested in the same types of data and share the cost of the survey between the Tribe and the partner organization(s). Partners might be universities interested in giving their students experience in data collection and analysis. Local businesses and employers might be interested in partnering to better understand where their customers live or work. Other government agencies often need similar data for their own planning efforts and view partnering as an opportunity to reduce their own data collection costs. Public safety departments might want to understand driver behavior and need information about roadway safety on tribal lands.
Tribes can get help funding data collection and analysis from programs in the Federal, State, and sometimes local governments. For more information on funding for transportation planning, see Transportation Decisionmaking Information Tools for Tribal Governments: Funding Resources at http://www.tribalplanning.dot.gov/ttfundresource_a.aspx.