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Research Project Description

Center Identification Number: 473-11

Project Title: National Transit Database Automated Data Collection Procedures

Principal Investigator:
Brenda Thompson, Research Associate

Center for Urban Transportation Research
University of South Florida
Tampa, Florida

FDOT Project Manager: Ike Ubaka

I. Project Objective

To analyze the data collection practices of public transit systems and determine software and database management solutions for reporting non-financial National Transit Database (NTD) data.

To develop a "how to" guide for collecting NTD data.  This guidance will be in the form of spreadsheet examples and a handbook.  It is envisioned that these materials will help provide transit staff at various levels with a better understanding of the total data collection process.  It will describe the various components of the comprehensive non-financial data collection process, from the data collection phase through the generation and interpretation of results. 

II. Project Abstract

In recent years, there has been a growing awareness of the need to use NTD data for operational purposes.  Since the NTD is standardized, it has become an important national evaluation tool.  In many cases, however, there have been concerns about validity.  For instance, some transit agencies have had problems retaining their planners.  Consequently, these agencies have difficulty maintaining consistency in the collection and reporting of their data.  Moreover, some of the newer transit systems are inexperienced and, therefore, may not maintain records accurately, if at all.  Those that find it difficult to gather and maintain their data tend to "guesstimate" rather than provide accurate data.  Hence, this project intends to give transit agencies better non-financial NTD data collection tools.  

This project is important because it will help make the NTD data collection process more efficient for local fixed-route and paratransit agencies by evaluating current transit collection procedures, reviewing advanced software solutions, developing sample spreadsheets, and providing a handbook.

III. Task Descriptions

Task 1 Survey of Transit Agencies 

A survey of transit agencies' data collection barriers and needs shall be conducted via telephone interviews.  As the budget allows, a number of on-site visits may be possible, as well, for more in-depth discussion of the issues.

Task 2 Synthesis of Existing Tools to Assist in Automation

CUTR shall review and summarize the availability of non-financial data collection software.  Software that is applicable to NTD reporting will be presented, along with pricing, availability, compatibility constraints, benefits, and caveats.

At this point, a draft technical memorandum will be developed that will summarize the results of Tasks 1 and 2, and will be provided to the FDOT project manager for review.

Task 3 Development of New Automated Procedures  

A series of example NTD non-financial data collection spreadsheets shall be developed.  These spreadsheets will delineate the specific NTD forms and lines that correspond with them, thereby connecting data collection procedures to useful NTD data input.  If available, CUTR will also present spreadsheets already being utilized successfully at other transit systems in the state (availability of these supplementary spreadsheets will be determined during the survey process in Task 1).  CUTR will not be responsible for creating financial spreadsheets due to the fact that Florida transit systems have expressed that they already have set procedures for collecting their revenue and cost data.

Task 4 Development of Draft Manual

The information gathered from Tasks 2 and 3 shall be synthesized into a draft manual that shall be presented to the reader as a step-by-step "how to" guide for collecting and analyzing non-financial NTD data.  This manual shall be developed for a national audience.  Therefore, the results of Task 1 will not be represented in the manual.  Instead, it will have chapters that address each of the issues in the development, conduct, and analysis of fixed-route and paratransit NTD data.  The draft manual shall be sent to the FDOT Project Manager for review.  Input will also be sought from a selection of transit agency personnel from around the state with experience in NTD data collection.

Task 5 Prepare Final Deliverables

The CUTR research team shall modify the manual, taking into account the input received, and produce the final manual for distribution.  The final manual will be a black-and-white copy that is professionally bound.  This manual shall not exceed 30 pages.  A total of 50 copies of the final handbook will be produced.  Additionally, 50 copies of the final technical memorandum will be produced for distribution to the Florida transit systems and the FDOT district offices.

IV. Student Involvement

Graduate students will be used to assist in the software review, creation of spreadsheets, and preparation of materials for the handbook and final report.

V. Relationship to Other Research Projects

This is a relatively unique project in its intensive examination of software available for the non-financial NTD data collection process, creative automated spreadsheet enhancements, and instructional decision-making handbook for transit systems. 

VI. Technology Transfer Activities

The results of this analysis will be provided to the FDOT through a technical memorandum that includes the results of the survey effort and software review, a series of Microsoft Excel tables on disk, and a black-and-white professionally bound handbook.  Copies of each deliverable will be provided to the Research Office, the State Public Transportation Administrator, the Manager of the Transit Office and the state-funded directly-operated motorbus transit systems residing within Florida.  Information will also be made available through the CUTR website and through presentations at state and national conferences.

VII. Potential Benefits of the Project 

This project has the potential to greatly improve the validity and soundness of transit data collection procedures, as it should provide guidance for NTD data collection.  This project aims to distinguish the best software programs that can be applied to NTD non-financial data collection.  Moreover, sample data collection spreadsheets and a practical guide for utilizing NTD data for local transit decisions will be provided.

VIII. TRB Keywords

software, National Transit Database, NTD, data collection, transit


National Center for Transit Research at the Center For Urban Transportation Research University of South Florida 4202 E. Fowler Ave., CUT100 Tampa, FL 33620-5375 (813) 974-3120 (813) 974-5168 Comments: