Research and Data Collection

Many State RTAP program managers collect data in addition to National Transit Database (NTD) data for their subrecipients (the Rural Module of the NTD is a requirement of the Section 5311 Program). The type of data collected varies by state, and includes financial and operational information. This is a list of some responses to a question we asked State RTAP Managers, “What type of data do you collect?”

  • Ridership statistics
  • Mileage statistics
  • Cost/trip data
  • Financial reports
  • FTA compliance information
  • Capital projects
  • Information for the transit directory
  • Training registrations and results
  • Assets
  • Employee information
  • Languages spoken in transit areas
  • Vehicle inspection records
  • Transit agency responses to customer comments
  • Other performance measures

During a series of interviews, several State RTAP Managers noted that one of the main reasons they collect data, other than for compliance with state or federal regulations, is to assess the needs of subrecipients. Making decisions about training to be offered in the upcoming fiscal year, as well as development of an annual work plan, were two of the data uses mentioned. 


Collecting Data

States collect data mainly with software programs, polls, surveys, and direct outreach. Several free and low-cost Internet programs exist to make it easy to send out surveys to email lists. The best way of communicating with subrecipients to collect data will depend on the number and make-up of the state’s providers. States with a low number of subrecipients may be more likely to respond to a survey if it is presented informally in an email, while states with many transit agencies may find they do not have the time to do this kind of targeted outreach. Getting out into the field on a regular basis is another method by which State RTAP Managers in Illinois, Mississippi, and other states collect data about subrecipient needs. 


Partnering with Universities for Research

Subrecipient data can be used in many applications, such as deciding where to spend funds and evaluating how programs are running. More specialized and comprehensive research projects that benefit state programs and their subrecipients have traditionally been undertaken by university research centers. For instance, CUTR, the Center for Urban Transportation Research, works closely with the Florida DOT and State RTAP program to complete research projects beneficial to the transportation sector. 

Types of projects that partner organizations such as universities could take on include research about how changes in legislation affect subrecipients, developing websites to disseminate information, and setting up call centers. The Illinois RTAP Program (Illinois Rural Transit Assistance Center) assists the Illinois DOT with its Capital Needs Assessment and Transportation Asset Management Plan. Funding is provided through FTA programs and the RTAP program provides the information that powers these services. 


Data Collection for Annual Reports and Workplans

Many State DOTs are required by their states to develop an annual work plan, which usually includes a description of current program activities, how the State RTAP program carries them out, new programs and services for the upcoming year, as well as how funds will be spent. The State DOT will specify the format of the annual work plan. View examples of annual work plans. Annual work plans should strive to include a variety of training strategies and initiatives offered.


NTD Data

State RTAP Managers are not likely to be responsible for collecting National Transit Database (NTD) data, but they should be aware that under the Section 5311 program, the state is required to submit this data to the Rural NTD on behalf of subrecipients. Generally, the Section 5311 (Formula Grants for Rural Areas) Manager is in charge of this (if that is a different role than the State RTAP Manager), but they may also participate in data collection or technical assistance in this area.


Updated April 21, 2021