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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:

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.

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

Updated: 10/20/2015
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