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Federal Highway Administration Research and Technology
Coordinating, Developing, and Delivering Highway Transportation Innovations

This report is an archived publication and may contain dated technical, contact, and link information
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Publication Number:  FHWA-HRT-15-071    Date:  January 2016
Publication Number: FHWA-HRT-15-071
Date: January 2016


The Use of Data in Planning for Operations: State-Of-The-Practice Review

Chapter 4. Barriers to Use of Data in Planning for Operations

During conversations with MPOs regarding this review, many of the same issues were reported regarding barriers or challenges to using data in planning for operations. They typically fell into the broad categories of transportation system coverage, data quality, data format or resolution, and costs in terms of funding and staff time.

There were typically very limited data on arterial performance and gaps of coverage on freeways. One MPO reported having difficulty obtaining transit data from the 10 transit operators in the region. Some regions obtained private sector, third-party data for coverage on arterials, but one region mentioned concerns that it may not represent the typical traveler. Other regions conducted special travel time runs on arterials but collected data manually. This typically does not allow for the modeling of M&O strategies during different operational conditions (e.g., weather, incidents, and special events).

Issues with data quality were also mentioned as a barrier, including loop detector and tube failures. MPOs reported having to spend considerable effort in postprocessing data before being able to use it in models or performance measures. Specifically, MPOs mentioned probe travel time data and traffic count data as requiring significant processing. In addition, the temporal resolution of data that the MPOs received was often not fine enough for their models, specifically the newer models. The MPOs needed data in 15-min increments or less but were receiving data in 24- or 1-h increments.

The cost of obtaining system performance data was also a key barrier to use of data in planning for operations. For example, in Houston, the toll-tag readers collecting freeway performance data were too expensive to deploy across the entire network. The region is looking to move to Bluetooth®, but the communications necessary to link the devices across such a large region are costly. Purchasing data from commercial vendors was also reported as expensive.

In addition, MPOs cited the time required to integrate data from multiple operating agencies across the region to create a more comprehensive view of the region's performance as a challenge. This is one of the main challenges that this VDA framework aims to address in this project.

Chapter 6 includes eight case studies that provide a closer view of the efforts to use data for planning for operations in fairly advanced regions across the United States.


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