October 20, 2020
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A new report compiled by the National Academy of Public Administration (NAPA) to help the Bureau of Transportation Statistics seeks to help improve that agency’s publication of revenue, expenditure, and other financial statistics relevant to transportation decision makers.

[Above photo by Missouri DOT.]

NAPA began work on this report in October 2019 and conducted a series of meetings with industry stakeholders – including the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials – before issuing its final report in June this year.

Susan Howard, AASHTO’s program director for transportation finance and director of the BATIC Institute, participated in a daylong stakeholder meeting in January as part of NAPA’s research for this report and told the AASHTO Journal this effort seeks to take a “fresh look” at how the BTS gathers, analyzes, and provides context around transportation financial statistics.

Susan Howard

“They are trying to figure out what is missing in their current transportation financial statistics work and determine where the gaps are,” she said.

“They pulled together industry stakeholders to get input on statistical information needs,” Howard pointed out. “For example, we do not know how much private sector investment is coming into transportation system by mode and how that [private sector transportation] investment is flowing through the economy. That’s obviously very important information to [Congressional and state-level] policy makers.”

She added that states categorize their operational, capital, maintenance financial data differently so this broad statistical review by BTS could help develop more consistency about it and help quantify it better.

Photo by Missouri DOT

“BTS’ role in this is to synthesize all these various data systems to give us a broad and more defined financial picture about our transportation system,” Howard explained. “That is definitely a positive thing for state departments of transportation.”

The NAPA report added that more finely tuned transportation statistical data is even more critical in the midst of the “devastating” COVID-19 pandemic as the United States will need a robust transportation system to help rebuild its economy and society.

“Because many of the recommendations in this roadmap can be applied to non-financial statistics, [we] encourage BTS to determine the extent to which these are relevant to its other statistical products and services,” it said. “If so, this roadmap could be the start of a broader transformation of how BTS gathers and disseminates transportation statistics to the American people.”

editor@aashto.org

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