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Open Government Plan - Chapter 3

DOT’s Open Government Initiatives and Activities for 2012-2014

Through the process described in Chapter 2, DOT identified 13 activities, grouped into five initiatives for inclusion in the 2012 Open Government Plan. These activities will span 2012, 2013 and 2014 and will further the Open Government goals outlined in Chapter 1. Figure 10 below illustrates how the initiatives map to related activities and when each activity will occur over the next three years.

The five Open Gov initiatives are shown against a three year timeline when each activity within an initiative will occur over the next three years

Index


Section 3.1: Open Government 2012 Flagship Initiative

DOT is taking the lead in implementing a safety community on data.gov, an initiative identified in the President’s National Action Plan for Open Government. Safety.data.gov will be the flagship initiative for this Open Government Plan. Milestones and specific affected stakeholder groups for this initiative are described in Section 3.2 of this Plan.

Safety.data.gov is an Open Government initiative that seeks to build a safety community on the data.gov Web site. While DOT and other Federal agencies collect important safety-related data, DOT recognizes that releasing data alone does not fully leverage the potential of those datasets for discovering new information, inventing new products, or identifying complex patterns to improve decisionmaking.Screenshot of the Safety.Data.Gov homepage

DOT believes a data.gov community focusing on safety will create momentum behind the productive use of safety-related datasets. Safety.data.gov will serve as a data clearinghouse, and host forums, blogs, and discussions.

Allows Better Safety Decisions

This Open Government flagship initiative will enable the public to make better safety-related decisions using both current statistical descriptions and explanations of the environment that will affect our future. Safety.data.gov will tap into the innovation of application developers, the immediacy of the internet, and information that the Federal Government collects to enable informed decisions that will enhance public safety and improve public health in the United States.

DOT’s safety.data.gov team hosted a National Transportation Stakeholders meeting in March 2012 that facilitated collaboration between the initiative, stakeholders and developers. The meeting included a preview of the Web site for evaluation by stakeholders. An IdeaScale exercise will be completed to further expand the scope of the conversation and provide additional feedback.

A safety community on data.gov addresses all three of the openness principles in the Open Government Directive. DOT recognizes that transparency is a necessary but insufficient condition for achieving the greatest value from this initiative.

  • Transparency – the safety community on data.gov promotes accountability by providing the public with information about enforcement and compliance actions the government is taking, as well as raw data underlying metrics used to track safety performance.
  • Participation – the safety community on data.gov will allow members of the public to contribute ideas and expertise, suggesting datasets to be provided through the portal or highlighting applications and models that promote the use of safety data. The community will provide both blogs and forums to facilitate these types of contributions, and agencies will conduct outreach to a wide array of stakeholders.
  • Collaboration – the safety community will be designed to stimulate the use of safety data at all levels of government, especially at the State and local levels. The safety community already has participation from the U.S. Coast Guard, the Consumer Product Safety Commission, the Department of Health and Human Services, the Department of the Interior, and the National Institute of Justice.

To build a community that responds to stakeholder needs, we plan to conduct extensive outreach to engage the public and maintain dialogue with interested parties who could contribute innovative ideas. As discussed above, the community will make use of social tools to foster a two-way dialogue. In addition, we will leverage existing forums, such as conference calls and webinars with organizations such as the State and local Chief Information Officers, University Transportation Centers and other research groups, safety associations, data journalists, first responders, and others. We will also engage with entrepreneurs, developers, and private citizens through mash-a-thons and other innovative public engagement activities.

How We'll Measure

To measure the impact from the safety community, we will establish a baseline of dataset views and downloads through the data.gov portal, measuring the uplift generated from the safety community. As noted in Section 3.2 in this Plan, we will collaborate with other agencies and track the number of participating agencies and datasets made available through the community. We will work with the data.gov Program Management Office to include State and local government data in the community. As with our Federal partners, we will measure the number of State and local government participants and the number of datasets being provided.

To the extent possible, we will track the number of applications and Web sites that are created using the data from this community and, where applicable, the number of Application Programming Interface (API) keys issued and API calls. Because the community will promote mash-a-thons, we will also track the number of these types of events and the number of applications generated through them. To help in tracking the utility and usage of tools built from this community, we will encourage developers to incorporate social feedback mechanisms in the tools they build. For example, an application built from data available through this site could incorporate social sharing (e.g., forming a tweet with a standard hashtag like I just found out about a recall through the recalls.gov mobile app! #safetydata).

Managing Growth

Safety.data.gov will evolve over time. As the community grows, new data and stakeholders will be added to the community. Participating agencies are committed to an ongoing dialogue about how to make the community most useful. We will also develop quarterly reports for senior leadership at each of the participating agencies, keeping them apprised of use, impacts, and outcomes.


Section 3.2: INITIATIVE ONE: Better transportation information through increased and improved disclosure of regulatory compliance and other safety related data

Improving access to data is a core principle of Open Government, and DOT remains committed to this goal. As a Department with extensive regulatory responsibility, DOT has broad data holdings about the entities it regulates, and has committed to improving access to this high value data through its regulatory compliance plan. As noted in that plan, it is clear how the data can be applied to identify new business opportunities. For instance, a windshield repair company looking to grow its business is mining FMCSA information about safety violations to identify new customers. DOT and the public realize a benefit because the commercial vehicle operator customer is using a safer vehicle and operating in compliance with Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations.

Furthermore, DOT collects and disseminates a great deal of data about the safety of the transportation system. To facilitate the application of these data in the development of new insights and applications, DOT is leading the development of a new safety community on data.gov. DOT has programs that help State and local governments apply interdisciplinary data to solve important issues, such as the Data-Driven Approaches to Crime and Traffic Safety (DDACTS) program. A safety community on data.gov can be the catalyst for enhancing and expanding programs such as this. We believe that a safety community on data.gov can help Federal, State, local, and tribal governments develop and share new approaches to allocating limited resources, reducing social harm and improving public health.

To support better transportation information through increased and improved disclosure of regulatory compliance and other safety related data, DOT is committing to the following activities for the next two years:

  • Pursue PHMSA Regulatory Enforcement and Compliance Data Interoperability
  • Release Regulatory Compliance Data
  • Launch Safety.data.gov

Section 3.2.1: Pursue PHMSA Regulatory Enforcement and Compliance Data Interoperability

In the President’s Memorandum on regulatory enforcement and compliance data, he directed the Federal Chief Information Officer and Chief Technology Officer to “explore how best to generate and share enforcement and compliance information across the government, consistent with law.”

DOT needs to improve its ability to share enforcement and compliance information, even internally. That is why we built the Hazardous Materials (HAZMAT) Intelligence Portal (HIP) and the Pipeline Data Mart (PDM). These portals aggregate data from around the Department and from select external Federal partners (such as the U.S. Coast Guard). At present, public access to these portals is limited, and data interoperability issues exist, particularly around unified identifiers for regulated entities.

PHMSA intends to increase public access and harmonize corporate identifiers in these portals. Important external stakeholders impacted by this updated Web site will include researchers, developers, the public, operators, State and local governments, and trade and professional associations. DOT believes the proposed evolution of these portals has significant value for the targeted stakeholders, including:

  • Economic value: Operators can study data and improve their own efficiency, enabled by data-driven decisionmaking and efficient allocation of scarce resources.
  • Quality of life value: Applications and policies developed using this new site can save lives.
  • Stewardship value: Demonstrates cross-agency commitment to safety in the Federal Government and improves trust in government.

To do so, DOT will take the following concrete actions:

  • Provide increased public access to PDM (September 2013)
  • Provide increased public access to HIP (September 2014)
  • Harmonize corporate identifiers to facilitate cross-agency analysis (September 2015)

Section 3.2.2: Release Regulatory Compliance Data

Sections 3.2.1 and 3.2.3 of this Plan discuss specific initiatives that will enable DOT to improve its ability to raise the profile and improve the utility of enforcement and compliance data. We will leverage the safety community on data.gov to provide direct, one-click access to the enforcement and compliance data and the evolution of the HIP/PDM portals will begin to address interoperability of these data, enabling analysis across datasets and fostering new insights. At DOT, we also see the potential uses for our enforcement and compliance data in meeting the President’s initiative on Smart Disclosure.

DOT intends to continue executing the commitments in its regulatory enforcement and compliance plan, and will work to build on the signature initiative in its customer service plan, making this particular type of data available in usable formats.

Important external stakeholders impacted by this initiative will include researchers, developers, the public, operators, State and local governments, and trade and professional associations. DOT believes the continued release of regulatory enforcement and compliance data has significant value for the targeted stakeholders, including:

  • Economic value: The data will enable data-driven decisionmaking, helping to identify new business opportunities and efficiently allocate scarce resources.
  • Quality of life value: Applications and policies developed using these data can save lives.
  • Stewardship value: Demonstrates commitment to transparency and smart disclosure in the Federal Government and improves trust in government.

To do so, DOT will take the following concrete actions:

  • Release SaferBus application (March 2012) and provide public access to APIs (April 2012)
  • Improve release practices for all datasets identified in Appendix B of its regulatory compliance plan (June 2013)
  • Address all currently non-public datasets identified in Appendix C of its regulatory compliance plan (June 2014)

Section 3.2.3: Launch Safety.data.gov

See Section 3.1 for a detailed description of this flagship initiative.

Important external stakeholders impacted by this new Web site will include researchers, developers, the public, operators, metropolitan planning organizations (MPOs), State and local governments, trade and professional associations, labor organizations, Federal agencies and manufacturers. DOT believes this initiative has significant value for the targeted stakeholders, including:

  • Economic value: Operators can study data and improve their own efficiency. Enables data-driven decisionmaking and efficient allocation of scarce resources.
  • Quality of life value: Applications and policies developed using this new site can save lives.
  • Social value: Improved degree of data integration connects previously fragmented communities of research practice.
  • Strategic value: Can identify opportunities for new and better products to address entrenched safety issues.
  • Stewardship value: Demonstrates commitment to safety and improves faith in government.

To accomplish this, DOT will take the following concrete actions:

  • Incorporate feedback from stakeholders and produce an initial public soft launch version (April 2012)
  • Continue to expand the number of government partners through proactively contacting and investigating possible participation by additional Departments at the rate of two Departments per month until all of the Departments have been contacted, with the expectation that an additional six Departments will be contributing safety-related or exposure datasets to safety.data.gov (December 2012)
  • Continue to improve the datasets and work with our partners to identify State, municipal and private sources of safety data for inclusion in the safety.data.gov community (December 2013)
  • Hold a mash-a-thon (by December 2013)

Section 3.3: INITIATIVE TWO: Expand data visualizations and visualization tools available to the public

Data visualization plays an important role in DOT’s ongoing efforts towards transparency and open data programs. Data visualization allows data to be interpreted in new and different ways and thus often displays complex patterns and relationships in an understandable fashion.

The information that DOT gathers can be difficult to process, interpret, and share. Data visualization offers one way to address the “analysis paralysis" that results from analyzing and communicating about large volumes of information, allowing DOT to build a compelling narrative around raw data.

DOT and its program offices are searching for new ways to better express the narratives around its data holdings. To support that growing need, DOT is committed to the following activity for the next two years:

  • Launch visualDOT

Section 3.3.1: Launch visualDOT

In the 2010 Open Government Plan, DOT referenced a new visualization platform that would be developed. In the past year DOT invested time in planning for that initiative and is moving into implementation for the next two years. The visualDOT platform will allow transportation-related data to be visualized geographically and contextualized in relation to DOT priorities. This powerful visualization tool’s capability to display complex data "mash-ups" and dynamic presentation techniques will lower the barrier for DOT programs to share data in ways previously considered to be overly complex.

Important external stakeholders impacted by this new Web site will include Congress, DOT data owners, developers and researchers (who make use of the data), media and the general public (who use visualizations to tell a story and make interpretations), and State and regional governments. DOT believes this activity has significant value for the targeted stakeholders, including:

  • Economic value: Those who need to use DOT data would not have to operate their own GIS application, saving money. DOT will realize cost savings through the effort by the reduction of duplicate Web servers into a single cloud-based platform capability
  • Social value: By bringing together many datasets and those interested in that data, this site will strengthen relationships among researchers and DOT.
  • Political and strategic value: Congress can use visualizations to inform decisionmaking and in talking with constituents.
  • Quality of life value: Researchers will spend less time searching for and interpreting data, and data owners will receive recognition for their work.

To do so, DOT will take the following concrete actions:

  • Complete the deployment of the cloud platform (April 2012)
  • Appoint a liaison/identify delegates from each mode to champion visualDOT (June 2012)
  • Organize and identify existing geospatial data (August 2012)
  • Identify potential visualizations to see transportation in a different way; create pilot projects and seed development (September 2012)
  • Begin decommissioning duplicate environments (March 2013)

Section 3.4: INITIATIVE THREE: New usage of Web 2.0 tools to effectively market and improve public awareness of DOT programs, information and opportunities

DOT recognizes that through new media opportunities such as blogging, webcasting, Facebook and Twitter, the Department’s message can be further amplified. DOT also recognizes new media tools can also be used to gather insights and invite input on DOT issues, including policies and programs, and build opportunities for collaboration and coordination.

Web 2.0 tools can be used in a variety of ways and at varying levels across the Department. Version 2.0 of DOT’s Open Government Plan highlights examples, to serve the following goals:

  • Increase Awareness of Program Information through Updates to the TIGER Web site
  • Leverage New Social Media Tools in Innovative Ways

Section 3.4.1: Increase Awareness of Program Information through Updates to the TIGER Web site

The Transportation Investments Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) Discretionary Grant program provides a unique opportunity for DOT to invest in road, rail, transit and port projects that promise to achieve critical national objectives. Congress dedicated $1.5 billion for TIGER I, $600 million for TIGER II, and $526.944 million for the FY 2011 round of TIGER Grants to fund projects that have a significant impact on the nation, a region or a metropolitan area. TIGER's highly competitive process, galvanized by tremendous applicant interest, allowed DOT to fund 51 innovative capital projects in TIGER I, and an additional 42 capital projects in TIGER II. TIGER II also featured a new Planning Grant category and 33 planning projects were also funded through TIGER II.

In the FY 2011 round of TIGER Grants, DOT awarded 46 capital projects in 33 States and Puerto Rico. The TIGER program enables DOT to use a rigorous process to select projects with exceptional benefits, explore ways to deliver projects faster and save on construction costs, and make investments in our nation's infrastructure that make communities more livable and sustainable.

Deep into the implementation of many of these projects, DOT now seeks to upgrade the TIGER grants Web site to leverage Web 2.0 tools to include more information about grant implementation. This effort could include new data visualizations and to streamline the way grant reporting information is collected to present to the public to monitor progress. Ultimately these upgrades will aim to better present information about how these transportation projects are being implemented across the nation.

Important external stakeholders impacted by this upgraded Web site will include State and local governments, transportation agencies, grantees, the transportation industry, transportation investors and Congress. DOT believes this activity has significant value for the targeted stakeholders, including:

  • Economic value:  By better understanding the performance of this grant program, DOT, grantees and appropriators will be able to target funds more effectively to increase the safety and efficiency of the nation’s transportation system. Furthermore, where unfunded applications could be identified, a secondary market for investments in transportation projects could be created. Additionally, a robust program site with such a data showcase could potentially enhance the technical capacity of smaller jurisdictions seeking access to the program and reduce expenses.
  • Stewardship value: A government that is accountable for its performance increases public trust. Being responsible and transparent regarding appropriate grant application, evaluation, and performance data allows DOT to showcase the merit-based, data-driven nature of the program while opening up the data for further customized analysis on trends by the public.

To do so, DOT will take the following concrete actions:

  • Improve availability of detailed award data, aggregating across rounds, available in spreadsheet form (September 2012)
  • Provide applicant resources and recipient collaboration opportunities (forums, wikis, best practices reports, and case studies) (June 2013)
  • Develop an interactive portal to trace financial information and performance metrics, with underlying data available in Web services (June 2014)

Section 3.4.2: Leverage New Social Media Tools in Innovative Ways

DOT is committed to evolving and expanding the use of social media channels across the Department to encourage effective engagement with the general public and DOT’s stakeholders. In addition, DOT’s public affairs office will pilot new social media tools, as well as additional social media accounts to reach new audiences and increase engagement. To achieve this goal, DOT will launch several new social media accounts at the DOT level 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

Important external stakeholders impacted by these new accounts will include transportation advocates, the traveling public, the transportation industry, Congress, media, educators, and academia. DOT believes this activity has significant value for the targeted stakeholders including:

  • Social value: Through an increased DOT presence on social networks, individuals and organizations will have a new way of engaging directly with DOT and their peers. By creating new connections, the transportation community will become stronger.
  • Economic value:  Leveraging online means to collaborate with stakeholders allows remote participation in events and other important discussions, decreasing travel costs and increasing the ability of a diverse group of stakeholders to participate.
  • Stewardship value: A responsive government increases trust from their stakeholders.

To do so, DOT will take the following concrete actions:

  • Launch a DOT Twitter Account in addition to the @raylahood account (by September 2012)
  • Launch a DOT Facebook Account in addition to the Ray LaHood account (by September 2012)
  • Launch a DOT Pinterest Account (by September 2012)
  • Launch a DOT Tumblr Account (by September 2012)
  • Develop a directory of DOT official accounts to help people find ways to connect (by September 2012)

Section 3.5: INITIATIVE FOUR: Leverage the Web, new methods and new tools to improve meaningful public and stakeholder involvement the development and implementation of policies and rulemakings and to improve the quality of DOT’s decisions and customer service.

DOT is particularly interested in applying new tools to the policy development and implementation processes. Our flagship initiative in our first Open Government Plan focused on rulemaking notice and comment, experimenting with new methods for encouraging participation and collaboration. As part of this Open Government Plan, we will expand activities across all stages in the policy and rulemaking lifecycles, and we will continue this effort through 2014, as shown in Figure 12.

Lifecycle of Policy at DOT

To further this initiative, DOT will focus on the following activities for the next two years:

  • Open Transit Data Survey
  • Leveraging the Veteran’s Transportation Community Living Initiative (VTCLI) to Encourage Collaborative Planning and Public Involvement Methods
  • Automation of Commenting on DOT Rulemakings
  • Launching the Digital Transportation Exchange (DTE)

Section 3.5.1: Open Transit Data Survey

In January 2012, DOT and the White House co-hosted a roundtable on real-time transit data issues. A key outcome focused on the importance of providing better customer information through open transit data, such as transit schedules and real-time vehicle arrival information. It became clear that an important first step would be to develop a broader understanding of these challenges to inform any potential Federal action.

Based on the discussion at the roundtable, the American Public Transportation Association (APTA) has decided to conduct a broad survey of transit agencies. This survey would reach out to both urban and rural transit agencies to ask what issues they are facing in making their transit data publicly available. FTA is interested in the results of this survey, and will review the results to determine whether they could inform steps the Federal Government can take to facilitate better availability and transparency of the data.  Among other things, APTA will inquire about the availability of data in a machine readable format compatible for open data/third party use. Building upon the knowledge gained from studying the results of the APTA survey, FTA may consider other actions to further encourage use of open transit data.

This effort will likely impact a wide variety of stakeholders, including public transit agencies, local and regional governments, equipment vendors, transit trade associations, transit advocacy groups, research institutions, mobile application developers, and the traveling public. The values provided to those stakeholders include:

  • Economic value: Transit agencies may see increased ridership and increased revenue as the result of better passenger information. Application developers may be able to make applications more easily with publicly accessible data, as well as realize a potential economic gain.
  • Quality of Life value: Better use of personal time for current and future riders may result from this effort because they will have more information.
  • Strategic value: Local governments have an interest in increasing overall use of their transit systems. Better transit data could inform regional decisionmaking and increase ridership.

FTA will conduct a study of the APTA survey results and determine next steps during the summer of 2012.


Section 3.5.2: VTCLI: Collaborative Planning and Public Involvement Methods

In the summer of 2011, DOT joined with the Departments of Veterans Affairs, Labor, Defense, and Health and Human Services to establish the Veterans Transportation and Community Living Initiative (VTCLI), an initiative that will improve transportation options and mobility for America's veterans, service members, and their families by providing capital funding to create one call/one click transportation centers connecting users to community transportation choices. As a part of this program, FTA will leverage competitively selected capital grants by additionally equipping, encouraging, and supporting communities to engage in collaborative transportation and human service planning using Web-based technologies. FTA believes several technologies currently used at the Federal level could be used to strengthen local coalitions of service providers and stakeholders.

To kick off the Open Government element of the VTCLI, FTA will host a national dialogue on transportation issues facing veterans and military families. Shortly thereafter FTA, working with its Department of Labor (DOL) partner, will provide grantees tools and licenses (DOL-provided ePolicyWorks collaborative workspaces and IdeaScale dialoguing platform) to conduct their own, local dialogues and collaboration projects. Understanding that the technology alone will not enable effective dialogues and collaborative efforts, FTA will also provide technical assistance and programmatic support to the grantees to help them learn how to facilitate the collaborations effectively. DOT believes this local support will give veteran and military stakeholders, as well as small transportation providers, a greater opportunity to share information and work together. Furthermore, the support will enable veterans and family groups to more easily provide input to their local transportation planning organizations, opening up the planning process to new groups.

In addition to supporting DOT’s strategic goal for livability, this effort also aligns with both the Administration’s emphasis on supporting veterans and their families and the First Lady’s “Joining Forces” initiative. The effort will have a broad impact across the country at the community level, including with the following stakeholders: VTCLI grantees, planning agencies, veterans’ service and advocacy organizations, veterans (particularly those with mobility challenges), military families and advocates, disability advocates, small transportation providers (paratransit, taxi and non-profit), the VA, DOL, DOT, local press and transit agencies. The value seen by those stakeholders may include:

  • Strategic and political value: Planning agencies can build support with veterans’ families and strengthen partnerships with communities. Veterans will be able to have direct impact on decisions about their transportation needs.
  • Quality of Life value: Veterans and families will experience improvements in mobility, access to jobs, healthcare, etc.
  • Stewardship value:  Trust could increase in transportation planning decisions, and transportation planning agencies (regional and Federal) could be seen as being good stewards of their government responsibilities by proactively involving stakeholders in discussions.

To realize this and other values for the public, DOT has committed to the following milestones for the next two years:

  1. Kick-off:  National dialogue on veterans and military families (May 2012)
  2. Provide grantee tools and licenses in partnership with DOL:  ePolicyWorks collaborative workspaces, IdeaScale dialogue platform (June 2012)
  3. Technical Assistance:  Technical and programmatic support for successful implementation of Open Government tools (ongoing through 2014)

Section 3.5.3: Automation of Commenting on DOT Rulemakings

Since rulemaking is an important public function of DOT, we sought early on to harness advances in technology to more efficiently manage the process. In 2001, DOT created a database to track the status of our rulemakings throughout their lifecycles. Much more than a standard tracking database, however, it allows DOT to provide useful reports to the public through our rulemaking Web site, regs.dot.gov. The information that DOT shares from the database includes a monthly status report of all of our significant rulemakings and which rulemakings will have effects on, for example, small businesses, foreign countries, energy, or Federalism. These reports have been available on the regs.dot.gov Web site since 2003. Also available on our Web site are rulemaking points of contact from across DOT, information on the use of plain language, a primer on the rulemaking process, and instructions for crafting effective comments on rulemakings.

DOT’s first flagship Open Government initiative, Regulation Room, provided a number of lessons learned over the last two years about the effect of online collaboration and social media in the public commenting process. Building on these two experiences, for 2012-2014 DOT seeks to further improve our rulemaking Web site:

  1. Use information from the Federal Register to notify the public of DOT rules that are currently open for comment at a central online location; and
  2. Create a unique standard comment form that automatically “pulls” headings and questions from proposed rulemaking documents.

These additional tools will provide a single online source for the public to use to see all DOT rulemakings, for all modes, that have open comment periods. Furthermore, the tools will provide a simplified form for the public to use to submit comments by section of the rule—making it easier for the public to identify rulemakings open for comment, identify issues, submit comments and review comments from others.

This effort will likely impact a wide variety of stakeholders that will vary based on the rule in question, including regulated entities and the general public. The value provided to those stakeholders as a result of this initiative could include:

  • Economic value:  Provides a more efficient method for the public to participate and for the agency to review comments when they are organized by issues, resulting in better DOT decisionmaking.
  • Strategic and political value: Organizations will have an improved ability to help craft regulations and influence policymaking.

If appropriate and timely funding is provided, DOT would implement the following timeline for this effort:

  • Statement of Work Complete (June 2012)
  • Issue Task Order for completion of tools (July 2012)
  • Development of tools complete (December 2012)
  • Launch new tools (January 2013)

Section 3.5.4: Launching the Digital Transportation Exchange (DTE)

Over the past year, DOT has been developing a concept for a transportation innovation platform, known as the Digital Transportation Exchange (DTE). DTE would connect citizens, businesses, State and local governments, industry, entrepreneurs, researchers, and investors though a public-private partnership like never before—creating a thriving marketplace for new and existing transportation solutions. At a basic level, DTE would act as a:

  • Social network for collaboration
  • Incubator for technology innovation
  • Marketplace where transportation technology solutions can be highlighted
  • Physical connection to the transportation industry

To accomplish this, DTE would have collaboration components—consisting of ways to both share content and make connections that focus energy and encourage relationship building.

Through an online dialogue and a public meeting in the fall of 2011, DOT engaged a wide variety of stakeholders on the potential for this initiative to connect people and technology for transportation innovation. Stakeholders provided valuable input to refine the vision for DTE as a catalyst for transportation innovation.

Figure 13 depicts some of the stakeholders that would likely have an interest in a DTE so they can better access and share transportation-related information, and connect with others to solve relevant transportation problems. The values provided to those stakeholders as a result of this initiative could include:

  1. Economic value: Initial development of the DTE requires funding, but over the long term we expect the government to get solutions in a more cost-effective way.
  2. Social value: All participating stakeholders benefit from being more connected to those in the community.
  3. Stewardship value: Government shows its commitment to support entrepreneurs.

To realize this and other values for the public, DOT has committed to the following milestones for the next two years for this effort:

  • Define the scope of the effort (June 2012)
  • Release an RFI to identify potential partners (September 2012)
  • Select partners and deploy initial version of the site (March 2013)

Section 3.6: INITIATIVE FIVE: Institutionalize engagement principles at all levels within DOT, equipping DOT employees with the tools and policies necessary to be more transparent, participatory and collaborative in their daily work, as appropriate.

In addition to the externally-facing work identified in the previous four initiatives, DOT is also making several internally-facing commitments to ensure Open Government principles are institutionalized. To achieve this objective, DOT will focus on three primary groupings of activities for the next three years including:

  • Strengthening public engagement
  • Leveraging the IdeaHub program to stimulate innovation, develop leaders, and practice openness
  • Providing employees with applications to improve collaboration

Section 3.6.1: Strengthen Public Engagement

The public engagement strategy articulated in Chapter 2 of this Plan hinges on the capacity of DOT’s employees to effectively engage. Equipping DOT offices with the knowledge and tools to effectively engage outside the Department will require internal capacity building within DOT during the next two years. DOT has committed to the following activities:

  • Institutionalize staff and working groups to further public engagement strategies:
    • DOT will seek to strengthen the public engagement role within DOT. (September 2012)
    • DOT will seek to formalize the Public Engagement Team, the Web Community of Interest, and the Social Media Management Council by chartering those groups. (September 2012)
  • Co-locate engagement practices and tools, encouraging knowledge management and best practices sharing:
    • Develop a Departmental toolkit to highlight a wide range of methods employed across DOT, including case studies as examples of engagement types, and allowing users to search for engagement tools by function (e.g., rulemaking, standard setting, policymaking, grant making, planning) as well as by topic (e.g.,  high speed rail, livability, etc.)  (April 2013)
    • Continue to share resources on a public engagement SharePoint site to provide a central location for information that enables employees to find relevant Open Government information (e.g., policies, standards, tools, training, handbooks) easily and collaborate more effectively. (Ongoing through April 2014)
    • Continuously update the internally-facing Web 2.0 catalog with new tools acceptable (from a legal and security standpoint) at DOT (Ongoing through April 2014)
  • Market new tools and guidance to appropriate employees. Tools will be strategically applied only to select public engagement opportunities.
  • Invest in several types of training for authorized employees at DOT, including:
    • Social media training during employee onboarding (Ongoing through April 2014)
    • An internal employee awareness campaign about the DOT Social Media Policy (July 2012)
    • Facilitation training for individuals who design public engagements and meetings (ongoing through April 2014)
    • Plain language training (ongoing through April 2014)
  • Seek to provide incentives (e.g., internal distinctions and financial awards) for employees that demonstrate excellence and leadership in the areas of transparency, collaboration, and participation. (November 2013)

Section 3.6.2: IdeaHub

DOT’s IdeaHub was launched in August 2010 to take employee engagement and innovation to the next level at DOT. IdeaHub is an online community where employees can post ideas, or further develop and comment on others’ ideas. It is a collaborative Web site where nearly 60,000 DOT employees can participate in innovative and meaningful workplace discussions. IdeaHub is the first Federal ideation program that truly spans a Department; one platform serves all DOT employees and provides a space to collaborate on innovative solutions to some of the Department’s most thorny issues.

In the first 18 months since IdeaHub was launched, almost 5,000 ideas were submitted by DOT employees, along with over 15,000 comments and over 60,000 ratings applied to ideas. There are over 15,000 users and a repeat user rate of approximately 60 percent. Furthermore, ideas already implemented resulted in $75,000 in cost savings and estimates for other ideas under consideration could save even more than that. DOT believes that while IdeaHub is good for workers at the Department, it is also good for the public. A more effective Department will be better able to fulfill its mission.

Our Open Government Initiative #5 is fundamentally about equipping employees with the tools and approaches they need to be more transparent, participatory and collaborative in their work—about transforming the culture at DOT. IdeaHub is a DOT program that practices that mantra every day. The IdeaHub program is uniquely positioned to support this initiative for the Department, and commits to the following activities for the next two years:

  • Launch and operate at least 12 employee-facing idea challenges to stimulate innovation and improve mission delivery. (by April 2014)
  • Continue establishing DOT as a leader in the ideation community by:
    • Sharing IdeaHub’s program documentation and lessons learned with the government-wide White House Ideation Community of Practice (ICOP) and other agencies interested in launching such an initiative. (October 2012)
    • Adding IdeaHub to the White House Innovations Gallery to share best practices. (October 2012)
    • Continuing support for interagency knowledge transfer. DOT and the Transportation Security Administration’s (TSA) experience shadowing each other’s ideation programs has led to an ICOP commitment to continue that “program swapping” exercise. DOT will help to institutionalize this practice through the ICOP. (April 2013)
  • Build the capacity of DOT employees by way of leadership development opportunities through the DOT IdeaHub liaison rotation program. (continue leadership rotation program through April 2014)
  • Continue to develop the IdeaHub platform based on user feedback and strategic goals. (continuous platform improvements through April 2014)

Section 3.6.3: Provide Employees with Applications to Improve Collaboration

DOT understands that equipping employees with the tools they need to better connect with each other is important. For the past two years, DOT has been working to understand what Web-based collaboration applications might be the most useful for our workforce. The development process for DOT’s upcoming Web-based carpooling application was an excellent example of leveraging employee engagement to seek suggestions for innovative technologies to meet their needs. After several suggestions from DOT employees, the project was submitted to the DOT IdeaHub collaboration site, where employees commented on and refined the project via online suggestions and critique. This process helped to generate a workable concept while recommending new features, and was indispensable in the overall generation of project goals.

The DOT carpool application is unlike every other carpool-planning service. In contrast to existing services, the application will enable DOT personnel to create carpools by connecting drivers and riders around both fixed schedules and ad-hoc travel.  Regular commuting routes can be created and scheduled utilizing the application.  In addition, the application has an expanded benefit designed specifically to assist agency personnel, many of whom must travel to attend meetings as part of their normal duties. These meetings may not follow a weekly or monthly schedule, preventing individuals from using traditional carpooling services that rely on fixed schedules and inflexible organization.  The DOT Carpool Connect application will overcome these challenges, assisting commuters while reducing the agency’s travel budget. In this era of fiscal cuts, carpooling is a simple and effective way to reduce costs while benefitting employees and the environment.

DOT will demonstrate its commitment to developing or procuring collaborative technology for its employees by taking the following concrete action:

  • Release production version of the carpooling application to all of DOT (October 2012)
Updated: Monday, April 1, 2013