How Data Keeps Utah DOT Moving
State-level departments of transportation are masters when it comes to collecting data.
No one is more aware of that than the transportation officials who traveled from around the country to gather in Biloxi, Mississippi, for the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) Transportation Communications Annual Meeting.
During the event, Scott Higley, Director of Strategic Communications at Georgia Department of Transportation, moderated a conversation between Oliver Wise, Digital Government Principal at Tyler Technologies Inc., and Elizabeth Weight, Director of Communications at Utah Department of Transportation, on the benefits accrued when DOTs move from annual, paper-based reports to storing data in the cloud, and make it accessible through dashboards and portals.
“Our role as the DOT is to strength Utah’s economy and enhance quality of life,” says Weight. “That’s front and center and then we have our three strategic goals. They are zero fatalities, optimize mobility, and preserve infrastructure.”
Thanks to UDOT’s dashboards, tracking progress on these goals is simple. By clicking through to any of these three goals, users can access an in-depth view of the state’s progress and strategies to achieve the goals.
Having up-to-date information on these vital priorities makes it easy for UDOT to respond to legislators’ questions.
“[Showing real-time data] makes legislators feel like we’re really responsive because we are. Then also, it’s good data. It’s not two years old, ever,” says Weight.
One additional advantage of displaying up-to-date data clearly and having it available with a few clicks of a mouse: departments can better advocate for their needs to decision-makers. She described a budget request that received approval within minutes because the team had the current facts on hand, and could easily communicate their needs, progress, and plans based on data.
Staffers benefit as well, says Weight, who points out that the portal is the most visited page by internal users.
“Our own employees are going into [the data portal],” Weight says. “They’re looking at these constantly updated measures and they’re asking, ‘How might my group within the department benefit from this information and do things better?’”
She notes that once UDOT realized the capacity of the platform and their ability to go beyond reporting on set measures, they encouraged employees to request additional measures to add.
UDOT has always done well at collecting data, says Weight.
She imagines most transportation departments are the same. Engineers love data, but it’s stored in “literal filing cabinets.”
“Imagine if we could take all those filing cabinets and turn it into digital data, and then integrate it across silos,” she says.
At the time, it may have sounded like an idea straight from the Jetsons cartoon, but the team decided to invest in it.
“Luckily, we had very forward-thinking executives,” Weight says.
They didn’t know what they were going to do with all of the data, but knew they wanted it in a centralized, Data-as-a-Service platform where it’s ready when they want to ask questions.
“Our vision is very, very simple,” she says. “It’s keeping Utah moving.”
Read our case study on how UDOT uses the online strategic report to directly connect funding to outcomes.