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The Growth of Information

ISTEA, devolution of authority, and technological innovation have increased the need for quality information among transportation professionals and decision makers.

Transportation agencies require timely and accurate information on a vast array of transportation issues, including intelligent transportation systems, intermodal systems, planning, mobility, land use, and safety. In its 1997 Strategic Highway Safety Plan, the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) identified good information as "one of the underpinnings of a sound traffic safety enterprise" and called for the development of a safety information clearinghouse and a model safety information system.

Technologies such as the Internet have made certain kinds of information far easier to obtain, leading some agencies to downsize or eliminate their transportation libraries or reduce other information programs. But the increased volume of information makes information integration, analysis, and management even more critical. As stated in the AASHTO Strategic Highway Safety Plan, "The most accurately compiled set of data is meaningless if users are unable to work with it."

Information and Information Resources

Information can be considered as data (both factual and numeric) that is organized and imbued with meaning or as intelligence resulting from the assembly, analysis, or summary of data into a meaningful form (McGee, 1993; Walker, 1993). Examples include research results, technology evaluations, and new methodologies. The value of information is determined by its importance to the decision maker or to the outcome of the decision being made.

Transportation professionals require information that is not only accurate, timely, and relevant, but also presented and interpreted in a meaningful way. Among the primary sources of transportation information are books, technical reports, journals, data sets, directories, and the expertise of colleagues. These primary sources may be accessed through numerous secondary sources, ranging from library catalogs and databases to help lines, such as that provided by the Bureau of Transportation Statistics (BTS), and the World Wide Web. The section on "Informa tion and Information Access" details the various means of accessing information and the role of the information professional.

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Electronic version of Publication No. FHWA-SA-99-038
This page last updated August 18, 1999

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