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Open Government Plan - Chapter 1

DOT’s Open Government and Public Engagement Strategy

Chapter One explains the DOT’s approach towards formulating the Open Government Plan, which looks at the critical technology, culture, and policy issues that impact Open Government activities. This chapter also details how DOT leadership and employees from across the department worked together to help create the plan, and how DOT solicited and incorporated public feedback into the plan.

Index

Overview

With over 80 percent of its budget dedicated to grants, DOT is externally focused. As a result, DOT’s ability to engage effectively with stakeholders, grantees, appropriators and other partners, in addition to the general public, is critical. There are currently many low- and high-tech channels for stakeholders and the general public to engage with DOT. Most opportunities for collaboration and participation are ongoing, lending themselves to social media and Web 2.0 tools. Open Government provides an opportunity to improve collaboration not only with the general public, but also with specialized groups that have transportation interests. Since the publication of the last Open Government Plan in 2010, DOT has made significant strides to enhance public and stakeholder engagement.

DOT is committed to sharing information and data to encourage opportunities for public feedback, creating opportunities for public participation in the business of DOT, and building opportunities for collaboration and coordination. This commitment is illustrated by the Public Engagement Model that DOT embraced in 2011 (see Figure 1).

DOT's Public Engagement Model

This model closely follows the principles of transparency, participation, and collaboration as articulated in the Open Government Directive and also the goals articulated in DOT’s first Open Government Plan, which included:

  • Increase Agency Transparency and Accountability by:
    • Presenting in a clear manner DOT information about programs and objectives; and
    • Continuing to release DOT data in a timely manner by proactively making it available online in consistent, open formats, while ensuring accuracy and protecting privacy, security, and confidentiality.
  • Apply Citizen Knowledge Through Participation to Government Service by:
    • Maintaining commitment to collecting and responding to public input on DOT policies and programs in innovative ways; and
    • Continuing to create opportunities for public participation in problem identification and idea generation.
  • Encourage Collaboration and Innovation by:
    • Enhancing collaboration with other Federal agencies, the private sector, and other non-government organizations in providing mission-related services; and
    • Enhancing efforts to stimulate innovation from DOT data and information.
  • Institutionalize an Open DOT Culture by:
    • Encouraging commitment to Open Government principles at all levels;
    • Encouraging a cross-modal, interdisciplinary, collaborative, and engaged workforce through enhanced communication, governance, and guidance regarding Open Government tools and programs; and
    • Maintaining commitment to data-driven DOT decisionmaking, by increasing employee awareness of DOT data and information.

The model illustrated in Figure 1 highlights the goals and objectives articulated in the first Open Government Plan and recognizes that those principles build upon each other to foster effective public engagement in decisionmaking and service delivery. Furthermore, there are increasingly more tools available to DOT to engage across the spectrum illustrated in Figure 1. Some of these tools (listed in Table 1) are technology-based, whereas others are an approach or methodology. Many of the tools identified in Table 1 have a long history at DOT while others are much newer. For the purpose of this Plan, DOT is committing to advancing the use of several of the newer tools for engagement (listed in bold in the table below), which include: the data.gov Web site and open data communities; DOT Web sites and data visualization; social media; Web-based online dialogues; regs.dot.gov; collaboration with coalitions and industry partners; and collaborative workspaces.

Strategy

Sample Tools

SHARE  Information and Data

  • Blogs
  • Social Networking Sites (e.g., Facebook, Twitter) and new media
  • Smartphone apps
  • Federal Register (e.g., NPRM, Guidance)
  • Presentations, Briefings, and Exhibits at National/State/Regional/Local Meetings
  • Webinars, Webcasting, Podcasting and Livestreaming
  • Publications (e.g., Dear Colleague letters, Reports)
  • Data.gov Web site and Open Data Communities
  • DOT Web sites (including www.dot.gov/open) and Data Visualization

GATHER

 Insights, Knowledge, Expertise and Experiences

  • Social Networking Sites (e.g., Facebook, Twitter)
  • Phone or In Person 1:1 Meetings, Focus Groups, and Small Group Discussions
  • Advisory Groups (e.g., FACA)
  • Web-based Online Dialogue (e.g., United We Ride (UWR), DOT Strategic Plan, etc.)
  • Structured/Facilitated Conversations
  • Summits on Targeted Topics (e.g., Distracted Driving Summit)
  • Town Hall Meetings
  • Workshops/Charrettes
  • Webcasting/Streaming During Live Events

INVITE

 Input on DOT Issues, including Policies and Programs

  • Electronic Docket (regulations.gov)
  • www.dot.gov/regulations and Web 2.0 in Regulations
  • Roundtables (e.g., Reauthorization, Disadvantaged Business, Great Lakes Revitalization)
  • Public Hearings
  • Negotiated Rulemaking
  • Regulation Room  (e.g., Cornell University/NPRM process)

BUILD Collaboration and Coordination

  • Collaboration with Coalitions and Industry Partners
  • Collaborative Workspaces (including Wiki and SharePoint) with External Stakeholders (like transportationresearch.gov)
  • Committee/Workgroup Participation
  • Ombudsman Programs
  • Online Mash Ups (e.g., visual DOT) and Tools (e.g., Every Day Counts, IdeaHub)
  • Research and Development
  • Self-Assessment Tools (e.g., UWR Framework for Action)
  • Tool Kits (e.g., Safe Routes to School, Every Day Counts, etc.)

Section 1.1: Tools for Enhancing Transparency, Public Participation and Collaboration Opportunities at DOT

This section describes the priority engagement and Open Government tools for DOT for the next two years. Chapter 3 will describe broad initiatives and specific activities that leverage these tools to make DOT more transparent, participatory and collaborative.


Section 1.1.1: Data.gov Web site and Open Data Communities

DOT has been an active participant in the data.gov initiative. The strategies outlined in our first Open Government Plan align with the requirements of the Open Government Directive and have been at the core of our open data efforts over the last two years. DOT remains committed to:

  • Driving innovation by tapping into the ingenuity of the American people;
  • Increasing agency accountability; and
  • Solidifying the connection between the Department’s services and individual citizens, businesses, governmental bodies, universities, and other non-government organizations.

“Every agency should create a public list of their data (and a plan to improve it) that is at least as comprehensive as what DOT prepared. Every agency should be a responsible steward of its public information, and the first good faith step in taking that responsibility is to publicly define what datasets the agency is responsible for, and to publicly define the steps that should be taken to improve them.”

-John Wonderlich, Sunlight Foundation

DOT has published its data inventory, developed guidelines for prioritizing data release, released 707 datasets on data.gov, and issued a regulatory enforcement and compliance plan that was recognized as an excellent example of transparency in government. DOT’s customer service plan includes a signature initiative that is responsive to public feedback, focuses on releasing enforcement and compliance data in modern formats, and encourages of novel presentation and reuse.

DOT has established a policy that any dataset published online should also be published to data.gov, and continues to make progress in enforcing this requirement. One way DOT is encouraging compliance with this directive is through participation in data.gov communities. For example, DOT data can be found in the law community, and DOT is taking the lead in developing a safety community on data.gov (see Section 3.2.3 of this Plan). DOT is also committed to continuously improving the utility and availability of its regulatory enforcement and compliance information (see Sections 3.2.1 and 3.2.2 of this Plan).


Section 1.1.2: DOT Web sites and Data Visualization

DOT has a long-standing commitment to not only make data available but to also tell the story surrounding its data through data visualizations. For example, the Bureau of Transportation Statistics provides information-rich visualizations through its Web site. In the last two years, DOT has taken steps to make new visualizations available on a wide variety of topics:

Each of these sites tells a different story – providing transparency and information on impact, process, and results across a wide range of programs at DOT. In the coming two years, DOT will continue to build its Web-based capacity for visualization by enabling new capabilities at a central point of access, providing for greater transparency into the process and results of the TIGER program through the TIGER Web site, and enhancing the way performance information is communicated. See Sections 3.3 and 3.4 for more information.

Social Media at DOT
The Secretary’s social channels continue to expand with 31,000 Twitter followers (@RayLahood) and more than 9,000 Facebook friends. The Secretary’s Fast Lane blog is wildly popular with readers, reaching over 1,800,000 page views. Further DOT operating administrations have expanded their social presence to include:

  • Federal Aviation Administration: Facebook Account (12,000+ friends), Twitter Account (16,273 followers) and YouTube Account.
  • Federal Highway Administration: Facebook Account (1,270 friends) and YouTube Account
  • Federal Transit Administration: Twitter Account (8,300 followers) and YouTube Account
  • NHTSA: Twitter Account (7,239 followers)

The following campaigns have also been introduced on social media since 2010:

  • FAA Safety Briefing: Twitter Account (7,646 followers)
  • Buzzed Driving is Drunk Driving: Twitter Account (4,869 followers)
  • Child Passenger Safety: Facebook Account (9,340 friends) and Twitter Account (7,775 followers)
  • Distraction.gov: Facebook Account (1,264) and Twitter Account (2,900)

Section 1.1.3: Social Media

DOT recognizes that through new media opportunities such as blogging, webcasting, Facebook and Twitter, the Department’s message can be further amplified. New media tools can be used to gather insights, knowledge, expertise and experiences. These tools give DOT an opportunity to invite input on DOT issues, including policies and programs, while building opportunities for collaboration and coordination.

After the publication of the Open Government Plan in 2010, DOT developed a comprehensive social media strategy to lay the groundwork for appropriately leveraging social media at DOT, managing risks and establishing guidelines and expectations around official, professional, and personal use. As a companion to the policy, DOT launched a Web 2.0 catalog for employees to find information about which tools were available for use and how to go about getting an official account approved.

Throughout 2012, 2013 and 2014, DOT is committed to using new and social media in innovative ways to share information with the general public and our stakeholders, and to gather further insights, knowledge, expertise and experiences from those outside our walls. Specifically, in 2012 and 2013, DOT will launch several new social media accounts to better encourage collaboration and increase engagement, including:

  • A DOT Twitter Account (in addition to the @raylahood account)
  • A DOT Facebook Account (in addition to the Ray LaHood account)
  • A DOT Pinterest Account
  • A DOT Tumblr Account

DOT intends for these channels to be more engaging than the existing channels, which have been used primarily for broadcast purposes. See Section 3.4.3 for more detail about this effort.


Section 1.1.4: Web-based Online Dialogues

Online dialogues are an effective way to gather insights, knowledge, expertise and experiences about specific issues. Some of the benefits from online dialogues we have found include:

  • Diversifying the participants in the dialogue
  • Encouraging wider geographic representation
  • Proactively making comments transparent that previously would have been collected by e-mail

As proposed in its first Open Government Plan, DOT has increased the use of Web-based dialogues significantly in the past two years, including:

  • A transparent IdeaScale dialogue on DOT, FAA, and FMCSA Strategic Plans, which normally would have been operated through the Federal Register, and a docket on Regulations.gov. Over the 4-week course of the FAA dialogue, almost 500 users engaged, sharing over 200 ideas, more than 300 comments, and casting over 1200 votes.
  • Targeted dialogues on a wide range of topics:

Figure 2: Dialogue for Women in Blue-Collar Transportation Careers, Map of Participation

Dialogue on Women in Blue-Collar Transportation Careers

As a supplement to a June 2011 roundtable, DOT held a 4-week online dialogue, focusing on the topics of image, recruitment and retention of women in blue-collar transportation careers.

Dialogue participation spanned the nation, garnering 178 individual participants, who collectively offered 49 unique ideas, 143 comments, 614 votes and diverse career representation.


Section 1.1.5: Regs.dot.gov and Web 2.0 in Regulations

FMCSA Hours of Service Rule

In the midst of a comment period, FMCSA broke with tradition and held a “town hall” listening session, providing a conference call bridge that allowed affected parties to share their comments in a new and innovative format. The bridge was open for an extended period, providing the broadest possible time period for over-the-road drivers to call in and express their point of view. DOT has piloted four rules through the Regulation Room in the last two years, garnering over 36,000 unique visitors and about 1,400 registered users. The vast majority of users had never commented on a rulemaking before.

Rulemaking and policy formulation are important DOT functions with a long history of innovation. From negotiated rulemaking to leveraging social media to engage interested parties, DOT has been a leader in thinking about new ways to harness advances in technology in the rulemaking process. For example, we held a “listening session” for FMCSA’s hours of service rule, in addition to accepting written comments (see callout box at right).

For information about efforts we have taken to date to streamline the rulemaking process, please visit regs.dot.gov.

For the next two years, DOT commits to build upon these successes to ensure the rulemaking process is even more accessible to impacted and interested parties. For example, in 2012 DOT will provide a single online source for the public to view all DOT rulemakings, for all modes, that have open comment periods through a series of enhancements to regs.dot.gov. See Section 3.5.4 for more detail about this effort.


Section 1.1.6: Collaboration with Other Agencies, Coalitions and Industry Partners

Working with partners is critical to achieving DOT’s mission. DOT has a history of strong working relationships with industry coalitions, other Federal, State and local agencies, and other industry partners, and we will continue to work closely with those organizations to improve the state of our nation’s transportation system. In the past year, we have co-hosted roundtables and events on a variety of issues with a variety of partners, including:

  • A Transit Apps Roundtable co-hosted by the White House
  • A sustainable communities code-a-thon co-sponsored by DOT, EPA and HUD, called Code for Livability

The Partnership for Sustainable Communities, which includes HUD, DOT, and EPA, held the first Code for Livability in Washington, DC, on January 22, 2012. This unique code-a-thon started with a lively discussion on the issues facing agencies that are working to create more sustainable communities. By generating the data to help planners build sustainable communities; enhancing existing sustainability applications with additional data; and building new sustainability applications that help individuals, businesses, and governments make more educated choices on livability, employment, and leisure, the day’s attendees collaborated with policymakers as never before on the issues that we all care about.

Federal Highway Administration Every Day Counts

Our society and the highway industry face an unprecedented list of challenges. We need to work more efficiently and the public wants greater accountability in how we spend their money. We need to find ways to make our roads safer. And we have an obligation to help preserve our planet for future generations. But it's not enough to simply address those challenges. We need to do it with a new sense of urgency. It's that quality—urgency—that we have tried to capture in the Federal Highway Administration’s initiative, Every Day Counts (EDC). To read more about EDC’s successful project implementations to date, see the effort’s Web site at www.fhwa.dot.gov/everydaycounts/index.cfm.

“EDC is designed to identify and deploy innovation aimed at shortening project delivery, enhancing the safety of our roadways, and protecting the environment. These goals are worth pursuing for their own sake. But in challenging times, it's imperative we pursue better, faster, and smarter ways of doing business.”

Victor M. Mendez -FHWA Administrator

To continue our commitment to work in partnership to achieve our mission, the American Public Transportation Association (APTA) will conduct a survey this year to gather feedback from the transit industry about the state of open transit data. After APTA releases the results to the public, the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) will study the results to identify the benefits of and hurdles to open data programs across the U.S. and to inform future efforts on encouraging open transit data nationwide. See Section 3.5.1 for more detail about this program.


Section 1.1.7: Collaborative Workspaces

TransportationResearch.gov

TransportationResearch.gov (TR.gov) is a Federal networking/collaboration site for transportation professionals hosted by RITA. TR.gov was designed and built to foster collaboration and networking within the transportation community. TR.gov has been live for two years now but has just been upgraded to the latest collaboration software. The site currently includes 14 subject-specific research clusters and four knowledge sharing networks managed by RITA and the Everyday Counts site managed by FHWA. FHWA’s Knowledge Network site is in the process of being migrated to TR.gov.

Migrating to the newest software has allowed RITA to implement a MySite feature which allows transportation professionals to network and share information about themselves, their credentials and interests. In addition a more powerful search capability allows users to find information posted to any of the TR.gov sites. The site is open for viewing by anyone visiting, while registration is required to contribute.

Over the last few years, DOT has recognized a need to leverage online collaborative workspaces with our stakeholders and customers. We have started with efforts such as RITA’s TransportationResearch.gov (see callout box), and we continue to make progress in this area. For example, in the past, the webinar software required to participate in GSA training courses (GoToMeeting) was not available for us by DOT employees in collaborating with other agencies or stakeholders. This year, in response to an idea submitted on DOT’s IdeaHub platform regarding DOT’s Open Government Plan, DOT made this collaborative software available to its employees for the first time. This technology solution, in addition to other programmatic decisions throughout the Department, will increase DOT’s ability to leverage collaborative workspaces when coordinating with our stakeholders.

The next two years will see an increased commitment from DOT to create, encourage and support collaborative workspaces. For example, in 2012 FTA will provide technical assistance and grant money to local entities to help them:

  • Conduct local dialogues on disabled veterans’ transportation options
  • Create collaborative workspaces between local stakeholders to address specific, local issues

This capacity building at the local level will help improve collaboration on transportation planning issues through technology. See Section 3.5.3 for more detail about this effort.

Over the last few years, DOT has recognized a need to leverage online collaborative workspaces with our stakeholders and customers. We have started with efforts such as RITA’s TransportationResearch.gov (see callout box), and we continue to make progress in this area. For example, in the past, the webinar software required to participate in GSA training courses (GoToMeeting) was not available for us by DOT employees in collaborating with other agencies or stakeholders. This year, in response to an idea submitted on DOT’s IdeaHub platform regarding DOT’s Open Government Plan, DOT made this collaborative software available to its employees for the first time. This technology solution, in addition to other programmatic decisions throughout the Department, will increase DOT’s ability to leverage collaborative workspaces when coordinating with our stakeholders.

The next two years will see an increased commitment from DOT to create, encourage and support collaborative workspaces. For example, in 2012 FTA will provide technical assistance and grant money to local entities to help them:

  • Conduct local dialogues on disabled veterans’ transportation options
  • Create collaborative workspaces between local stakeholders to address specific, local issues

This capacity building at the local level will help improve collaboration on transportation planning issues through technology. See Section 3.5.3 for more detail about this effort.


Section 1.2: Other Opportunities for Participation and Collaboration with DOT

The list in Table 2 below contains other examples of current opportunities to participate and collaborate with DOT, categorized by OA:

OST:

Secretary’s “On the Go” Video and Question and Answer Series

The public submits questions via social media and Secretary LaHood answers in a YouTube video.

DOT: 

Regulation Room
On the site for DOT’s 2010 flagship initiative, the general public can read and discuss plain language versions of select Notices of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRMs).

FAA:

FAA Mobile

Provides quick access to popular FAA.gov tasks for aviation enthusiasts on-the-go. You can look up N-numbers, find Advisory Circulars, browse airport delays, report on wildlife strikes and more.

FHWA: 

Every Day Counts

Ideas are shared by State, local and private sector partners to shorten project delivery or accelerate technology and innovation deployment.

FMCSA: 

SaferBus app

This app, developed by FMCSA, allows easy access to bus safety information and a one-touch process to start filing a complaint (available through the iTunes store).

FRA: 

Fostering a Safe Railroad Environment Nationwide

Offers links to some of the more prominent safety programs and forums with opportunities for public participation.

FTA: 

Notices of Funding Availability

Posts all opportunities for funding as they become available.

MARAD:

Adopt-A-Ship Program

Provides the opportunity for a school classroom (5th-8th grade) to adopt a ship of the American Merchant Marine and exchange correspondence with it.

NHTSA:  

NHTSA Distracted Driving Study

Conducting a national telephone survey on driving habits and attitudes related to distracted driving.

PHMSA: 

Stakeholder Communications
Provides State-by-State pipeline profiles.

RITA:

TransportationResearch.gov

Federal networking/collaboration site for transportation professionals hosted by RITA.

SLSDC:

The St. Lawrence Seaway: Gateway to North America
Binational site of the Great Lakes St. Lawrence Seaway System.

 

Table 2: DOT Participation and Collaboration Opportunities

Updated: Tuesday, April 2, 2013