Analytics is a key piece in nearly all 31 recommendations outlined in The Innovative DOT: A Handbook of Policy and Practice. Crafted by the State Smart Transportation Initiative, in partnership with Smart Growth America, the handbook provides 31 recommendations for state transportation officials looking for ways to increase efficiencies and meet the growing transportation needs of the road users while controlling costs.
The handbook’s introduction acknowledges that state DOTs are rising to the challenges of finding additional resources or ways to get the most out of their often crumbling infrastructure. Still, the handbook points to areas where increased efficiencies and organizational cultural shifts could help DOTs and other transportation agencies achieve their ambitious goals.
Some of the key areas where analytics can play a role include:
- Leveraging data to create reports and dashboards for key stakeholders like elected officials, taxpayers and road users.
- Developing consistent and proven methodologies for models and calculations.
- Using data analytics to develop a robust predictive asset management framework to optimize routine maintenance efforts.
- Using data to create outcomes-based project selection criteria and scenario analysis.
- Integrating data to establish a holistic view of DOT functions via performance measures.
- Ensuring that data collection and analysis methods are integrated into all levels of DOT (vertically and horizontally).
State DOTs have a wealth of data but wringing value from it remains a challenge. Often, different divisions within the DOT house and use data to answer specific questions relating to their core business functions but don’t integrate their data with data housed in other parts of the DOT. As the Innovative DOT Handbook recommends, integrating data and breaking down silos throughout the agency can strengthen existing models and scenario analysis as well as uncover innovative solutions and support decision making.
Taking it a step further, leveraging existing data and applying predictive analytics and forecasting gives state DOTs the ability to make forward looking decisions and create short and long term planning they can rely on. Another benefit of analytics is the ability to determine links between proposed projects, maintenance efforts and impacts on safety and economic development.
As state DOTs look for ways to innovate, it’s clear analytics will be the lynchpin.