Move to Open Data Reshapes Transportation Plan

July 07, 2022 by Peter Friesen

Move to Open Data Reshapes Transportation Plan

When there’s a need to pull together facts and figures for a range of transportation programs and share them across a whole state, a static document doesn’t always cut it.

Updating the Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation’s (DRPT) Six-Year Improvement Plan has long been a laborious effort, involving spreadsheets, manual data entry, and deadlines, after which the final published document is, in effect, already out of date.

Patrice Strachan, DRPT program manager, knew there had to be a better way.

“All of our stakeholders were having to wrangle through multiple pages of documents with really no way to search or filter,” Strachan said. “By deploying the project, or the open data portal, that we have today, we are able to be much more transparent and user friendly.”

Lean and Mean Data Review

The 60-person department oversees alternative transportation and mobility programs such as rail, public transit, and commuter assistance. DRPT found a way to “reduce the burden” on their employees by adopting the Enterprise Data Platform, powered by Socrata, that allowed for increased efficiency and greater responsiveness as a team.

They first focused on solving their largest issue: the Six-Year Improvement Plan that tracked budget items for a large program of projects. Once a compendium of PDFs; now the public-facing document reflects live, interactive updates and is viewable on a new website.

Partner organizations can use filtering tools to see details on their areas of funding. The public, meanwhile, is now privy to a wealth of information about where transit money is allocated, freeing up staff from taking information requests.

“We’re lean and mean,” Strachan said. “We have to really leverage every resource that we have.”

Every member of that lean team helped pull together the required data to deploy the new software, and external partners were tapped for early feedback to ensure the website was at its best before going live to the whole state.

Award-Worthy Execution

After rollout, the Virginia DRPT won a 2022 Tyler Excellence Award for their work implementing the new interactive website. They aren’t ready to stop there, however.

“We know that we have just many, many reporting requirements, many other applications that we’re going to utilize,” Strachan said. “Just this past week, our staff got together and came up with a three-page list of data that we currently are tracking in various means, from database to an Excel spreadsheet to piece of paper, and all of which we think there’s an application [for] using the new enterprise data platform.”

Looking Ahead to a Data-Driven Future

Those applications, along with the existing interactive budget platform, will also be able to talk with other agencies and departments in Virginia that use the same solution. This lays the groundwork for collaboration and using data more strategically, according to Strachan.

“I think what we have ahead of us is just going to completely change the way that we report data, report our programs. This is really just the very beginning stages.”

Related Content