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It's easy for a Chief Data Officer at DOT to feel invested in an event called Transportation Datapalooza. And it's easy for the data scientists, transportation planners, and app developers who presented their work on Tuesday and Wednesday to feel a similar investment. After all, the goal of our Datapalooza --improving the collection of transportation-related data, improving the tools to analyze that data, and improving the transportation decisions informed by that data-- is what these men and women are all about.

But I can assure you that even Fast Lane readers whose eyes roll at the very mention of "big data" actually have a big investment in the projects and developments discussed here at DOT Headquarters over the past two days.  Because transportation touches the lives of every single American, the improvements that Datapalooza is designed to nurture also touch the lives of every single American.

Whether the data advances we're talking about lead to more focused road maintenance investments or more efficient bus transit routes, in the end it's all about using limited resources to get Americans where they need to go and moving American freight more efficiently, more sustainably, and --most of all-- more safely...

Portland, Oregon bus

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Cross-posted from the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy.

Today, in a major step to advance the President’s Climate Data Initiative and the Climate Resilience Toolkit, the Obama Administration is providing data and tools that will help ensure our nation’s transportation systems are more resilient to the effects of climate change.

In the United States, transportation systems are designed to withstand local weather and climate. Transportation engineers typically refer to historical records of climate, especially extreme weather events, when designing transportation systems. For example, bridges are often designed to withstand storms that have a probability of occurring only once or twice every 100 years.

However, due to climate change, historical climate is no longer a reliable predictor of future impacts...

Transportation and climate data together

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Today, in its first ever use of its new safety authority, as granted by Congress in MAP-21, the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) announced the findings of its Safety Management Inspection (SMI) of the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority’s (WMATA) Metrorail and Metrobus system.

FTA evaluated WMATA’s operations and maintenance programs, safety management capabilities, and organizational structures. The report identifies serious safety lapses, organizational deficiencies, and operational concerns.  You can read more about those findings on our website.

The ability to investigate safety concerns in the nation’s rail and bus systems, and to make concrete recommendations to improve their safety cultures, is essential to making a safe way of travel even safer.  Because this is the first inspection FTA has conducted using our new safety authority, it provides a template for how we will perform this type of safety oversight in the future. It’s taken a lot of groundwork to get to this point, and we will continue to build on that groundwork...

WMATA 7000

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Today, I landed in Ghana, kicking off my first trip to Africa while in office, and I can see that the President was right. Ghana is doing big things. Their economy is growing fast. Their capital is populated by young, educated leaders. They’re even spending a higher percentage of their GDP on infrastructure than we do in the U.S.

In many ways, Accra is not just leading the way in Ghana; it’s leading the way in the entire continent.

And, in particular, Ghana is leading the way in aviation...

In Ghana

Continue Reading Safe Skies over Ghana ››
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A Roll Call Commentary published on June 12, 2015.
Cross-posted courtesy Roll Call

Pass by a bus stop in downtown Los Angeles and you’ll see the faces of those waiting to use public transportation are diverse. Women, seniors, college students, African-Americans and Latinos take various forms of public transportation to get to work, school or even just to get connected to society.

Latinos rely especially heavily on public transportation.

1.7 million Latinos use public transit to commute to work.

3 million Latinos carpool.

And a combined 1 million Latinos bike, use a motorcycle or walk to work according to census data.

Public transportation is a critical lifeline for the Latino community. Like most Americans, we depend on it for economic and social mobility. When I was in college and law school, I relied on public transportation to get to class. I didn’t have a car and lived too far from campus to walk. I depended on the BART at the University of California, Berkeley and at UCLA Law School, I took the 1 bus from Santa Monica to downtown Los Angeles.

As we move forward, it’s important to remember the Latino community has a big stake in the transportation conversation...

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The Federal Highway Administration’s oversight of the National Bridge Inspection Program (NBIP) has helped ensure the safety of America’s bridges for more than three decades.  A large part of this oversight depends on data collecting and reporting, which FHWA takes very seriously.

That’s why the agency recently announced it will begin collecting new data from state DOTs to monitor the nation's bridge conditions even more closely. As of April, state DOTs started providing the improved data to the NBIP.

The safety of our roads and bridges is a top DOT priority. But, in a situation like today where we have a tremendous repair backlog due to chronic underfunding and one in every four U.S. bridges needs some type of improvement, it's important to know where those limited funds are needed most.  Improving bridge data helps better identify where to dedicate resources to ensure that America's key bridges remain in good-enough condition to support the traveling public, businesses, and the economy...

Bridge Out sign

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One of the most important jobs we have at DOT is to make sure rural Americans are connected --to each other; to schools, jobs, and medical care; to the 21st century global economy.  

Freight transportation, for example, is a huge concern for rural communities.  Farmers can't get their crops to market without it.  And with margins as tight as they are, the cost of that transportation can determine whether their crops are profitable.

And it’s not just freight transportation that makes a difference in the lives of rural Americans. When you're separated from your neighbors or the nearest town by miles, personal transportation matters.  Rural communities are often transit deserts, where those who can't drive are isolated from the basics --like groceries and doctors-- and from opportunities --like jobs and schools.

That’s why DOT sent GROW AMERICA, a long-term transportation bill that includes funding solutions for rural concerns, to Congress...

Rural road, South Carolina

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With another school year coming to a close, I want to talk about America's students. As Secretary, I regularly meet bright, eager young people --from grade school to college-- who are passionate, resourceful, and ready to contribute to our society.  However, opportunities to gain the skills needed for jobs that pay good wages are too often elusive.

Consider these numbers from the Bureau of Labor Statistics: in July 2014, only 51.9 percent of the young men and women (ages 16-24) were employed. That's a steep drop from the 58.3 percent who were employed ten years ago.  For youth from communities of color, the numbers are worse: Only 39.8 percent of African American youth and 47 percent of Hispanic youth had jobs in July 2014.

I believe we have a responsibility to do something about this.  And I believe transportation can play an important role in improving the employment landscape for young people nationwide.  So last month, I met with 20 transportation executives from across the country to discuss how we can introduce students between the ages of 16 and 20 to careers in transportation.

Ladders logo

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Today the Federal Aviation Administration released our Draft Environmental Assessment for the Southern California Metroplex project.  This project will replace dozens of existing conventional air traffic procedures with new, more precise satellite-based procedures.

These procedures are a key component of the Next Generation Air Transportation System, or NextGen.  Nationally, the NextGen evolution from ground-based air traffic control to a satellite-based system improves safety, efficiency, fuel savings, and emissions.

From reduced fuel burn and emissions in Seattle and Denver, increased throughput in Louisville and Atlanta, and digital controller-to-pilot communications in Newark and Memphis, we’re already delivering those benefits to cities across the U.S.

Now we’re ready to bring some of these benefits to those flying into and out of the busy airspace of Southern California...

SoCal Metroplex Map

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This morning in the Fast Lane, Secretary Foxx reiterated the warning of our Beyond Traffic draft 30-year transportation forecast: “A tidal wave is coming for us in transportation, a wave of people and freight….Our infrastructure system, which struggles to meet its current challenges, won't be able to ride the coming wave.  Especially when you consider today's transportation funding situation.”

Fortunately, many communities across the U.S. —like those in our Mayors’ Challenge for Safer People, Safer Streets— have embraced an approach that reduces roadway congestion and stretches our transportation dollars: bicycle infrastructure.  Even better, improving bicycle infrastructure boosts economic growth...

NYC Columbus Ave

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