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Guide of the Week: Surface Transportation

Note: In three days, President Elect Obama will officially become our 44th President. On John Shuler’s calendar, it will be day zero for government information liberation. While I’ll drink a toast that day as soon as I’m off duty, the “Transition edition” of Guide of the Week will continue until we finish off GAO’s 13 critical issues on February 7, 2009.

The Government Accountability Office recently identified surface transportation as one of 13 urgent issues facing the next President and Congress. Today on Guide of the Week, we’ll talk about some librarian produced guides from the ALA GODORT Exchange Wiki that can help inform citizens, Congress and President-Elect Obama on this issue.

There are three librarian produced guides on the Handout Exchange which look useful:

Railroads are an important part of our surface transportation system and Bert Chapman’s railroad guide provides rich historical context and current resources for statistics and regulations. His more general transportation guide highlights a number of useful resources including the 2002 Census of Transportation & Warehousing, Public roads: A journal of highway research, Senate Commerce, Science, & Transportation Committee, House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee, and my favorite, the Transportation Acronym Guide.

Sally Lawler’s guide is more historical in nature, but offers ways to explore what we as a nation have wanted from our transportation and how we can plan that transportation in ways that benefit everyone. Here’s an example of the type of questions this guide might be able to help you answer:

Can you take a bus to Detroit Metro Airport? to downtown Detroit? Can you commute to work on Amtrak? Get around the city and suburbs on a mass transit system? In contrast, think about the number of highways in and around Detroit and the amount of time news channels spend on traffic reports.

While not part of the Handout Exchange Wiki, people interested in surface transportation issues should also check out state transportation department databases linked from another ALA GODORT project, State Agency Databases Across the Fifty States. Some of the available databases include:

  • California – Caltrans Cost Data – This database contains cost data at the bid item level for contracts from 1993 to the present, and is updated approximately every other week. From 2002 to present, the data includes bid data from non-awarded bidders as well. Search is by item code/description, bidder, district/county, year, price and quantity.
  • Colorado – Transportation Statistics and Data – “Information is provided on current and projected traffic volumes, state highway attributes, summary roadway statistics, demographics and geographic data. Listings, calculators, GIS shape files, maps and database files are provided to access data that are used and maintained by CDOT.”
  • Iowa – Bridges in Iowa – Requires Google Earth. From the website, “To provide increased access to bridge information, the Iowa DOT has developed a Web program that allows Iowans to pinpoint a state highway bridge in their area using Google Earth software and Iowa DOT data. Information available online now includes the year a bridge was originally constructed and reconstructed, if it has undergone major work, the average daily traffic count, the highway it carries and feature crossed, and its national bridge sufficiency rating.”
  • Ohio – Bridge Photos – Access photos of Ohio bridges by county.

There are more. Just go to the State Agency Databases Across the Fifty States and search on the word transportation.

Next week I’ll be dealing with librarian produced guides relating to “retirement of the Space Shuttle” So if you have any guides relating to that topic, please try and post them to the Handout Exchange this week.

CC BY-NC-SA 4.0 This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

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