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Publication Number:  FHWA-HRT-08-006    Date:  Sept/Oct 2008
Publication Number: FHWA-HRT-08-006
Issue No: Vol. 72 No. 2
Date: Sept/Oct 2008


Internet Watch

by Keri A. Woodard

New Blog Keeps Transportation News Moving

Just a few years ago, Merriam-Webster declared "blog" the word of the year, as it received the largest number of user requests by a wide margin on the dictionary's Web site. Since then, blogs, or "Web logs," have appeared all over the Internet as a way to engage, educate, and provide feedback on a host of topics. In spring 2008, the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) joined the blogosphere with Fast Lane, accessible at http://fastlane.dot.gov. Fast Lane is an online community for those interested in the Nation's transportation system and its future.

USDOT officials underscored two primary goals in launching Fast Lane. First, the department will use the blog as a vehicle for communicating news and announcing significant events in the transportation industry. Second, Fast Lane serves as an open forum where professionals and the public alike can contribute ideas and highlight innovative transportation activities in their communities. Fast Lane, therefore, provides a two-way exchange of information between USDOT and the public.

Diversity of Topics

Because Fast Lane is a blog covering USDOT, it highlights transportation topics across all modal administrations. For example, posts have covered topics such as a program to improve safety for teenagers behind the wheel, a rule requiring airlines to report the time that passengers spend on the runway, and an announcement about the opening of a new span of the Woodrow Wilson Bridge connecting Maryland and Virginia.

By covering a diversity of topics, the blog attracts a wide audience. To stay informed about the latest blog postings, readers can sign up to receive e-mail or rich site summary (RSS) updates each time a new posting is added to the site. With these capabilities, Fast Lane helps readers stay tuned into USDOT and the transportation industry.

Comments and Suggestions

In the spirit of two-way communication, Fast Lane not only provides information for visitors to read, but also offers a place where people can discuss topics by posting comments, questions, suggestions, and recommendations.

For example, when USDOT officials posted information about a grant awarded to Chicago to reduce congestion by funding new rapid transit bus routes and implementing a variable pricing system for onstreet parking, the post drew both questions and comments. Some readers suggested ways to improve the city's public transit system, and others recommended creating more bicycle paths. Such comments underscore the utility of blogs in stakeholder dialogs: By joining the blog, members of the public can communicate their ideas to top government officials. Blogs such as Fast Lane help create a collaborative environment in which citizens can offer input on how government can improve projects, programs, legislation, and laws.

Guest Contributors

Although the USDOT Secretary is the most frequent author of Fast Lane postings, other senior officials from across the department contribute to the blog. For example, a posting from a top official in the Federal Railroad Administration discussed the National Rail Safety Action Plan, which focuses on reducing train crashes, accelerating research to reinforce tank cars containing hazardous materials, addressing fatigue among train crews, and improving safety at highway-rail grade crossings by forging stronger partnerships with States to address the issue.

Fast Lane also welcomes guest bloggers from government, industry, and the broader transportation community. For example, Virginia Governor Timothy Kaine blogged about his agency's collaboration with USDOT to advance a major transit project in northern Virginia.

In this day and age, news travels fast. With Fast Lane, USDOT is helping share transportation news quickly, while simultaneously enabling the public to engage in topics that matter to them as the primary beneficiaries of the Nation highways, seaways, railways, and airways.

To quote a post from one USDOT official, "If [we're] going to insist on 21st century solutions for our transportation system, [we] better communicate in a 21st century way!"

Screenshot of Fast Lane, USDOT's official blog.
Fast Lane, USDOT's official blog.

Keri A. Woodard is a contributing editor for Public Roads.

To sign up to receive e-mail or RSS updates of new postings, visit http://fastlane.dot.gov and click on the appropriate links under the "Subscribe" heading on the right toolbar.



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