The ultimate goal of data collection and analysis is to identify the various types of transportation challenges and "gaps" in existing transportation services. Although analysis of the information gathered is a critical element of the process, some assumptions and conclusions will need to be made by the stakeholders to determine whether a transportation problem exists and each community may have a different definition of unmet transportation needs.
A number of factors may explain why a specific area is under-served by existing transportation services. Insufficient demand and high subsidies needed to justify services in some areas may be a major factor. Transit services may not operate during early morning or late evening hours to accommodate shift start and end times. Another factor may be that service cannot legally extend beyond a particular service area or boundary. Whatever the issue, local stakeholders will need to determine the extent of the problem and the best way to address it. Chapter V further addresses a process for identifying unmet transportation needs.
Data collection and analysis tools range from basic to very technical. An effective tool used in many areas is Geographic Information Systems (GIS) software that produces maps displaying various data. Maps make it possible to view complex information and the spatial relationship among them. Examples include showing where members of the target population live, likely employment sites and existing transportation routes.
Interviews and surveys can also be an effective tool for determining transportation needs. Target population members can provide valuable information regarding their access to existing transportation services and the type of transportation services they need. Additionally, interviews with employers can shed light on recruiting or attendance issues related to transportation problems. A discussion of analytical tools is presented in Chapter V.