BTS Releases Smartphone App Version of Pocket Guide to Transportation
August 24, 2016
Christmas came early this year for policy wonks who can never get enough charts, graphs, and stone cold facts from the Bureau of Transportation Statistics (BTS).
The agency has released a smartphone application based on its annual publication, the Pocket Guide to Transportation.
The app allows users to immediately access information on topics ranging from personal mobility statistics (e.g. passenger ridership by mode, vehicle miles traveled) to the movement of goods (e.g. freight shipments within the U.S. by mode and U.S. trade by coasts and borders).
While the app’s interface is not intuitive and navigation is clunky at best, it still shines as a handy mobile reference tool.
It is easy to imagine how this would be useful for transportation professionals who frequently attend or speak at conferences. In these settings, it would be valuable to quickly pull up statistics that would resonate with an audience or with panelists during a Q&A session with a panel of experts.
There is truly something for everyone – that is, everyone is in the transportation field.
The international trade statistics offer a birds-eye view of America’s trade relationships with every part of the world – and also more granular details on the amount of goods moving through major land and sea ports of entry.
Now, reporters and the general public can quickly fact check statements by politicians on topics such as international trade or employment in transportation-related industries. There is also a handy glossary buried in the Information section.
One of the app’s most useful features is the ability to switch from viewing graphs to stats tables (shown at left). The graph function is certainly the most useful for quick reference, while the tables dive into the hard numbers behind the trends.
The aptly-named Pocket Guide to Transportation is just that – a guide to transportation statistics developed by a government agency for policy wonks.
From a technology perspective this is far from groundbreaking. The user interface is clunky. The navigation is not at all intuitive. The home page might be an artist’s rendition of a digital traffic cone. The app doesn’t allow you to download the graphs or quickly tweet them out. And it might take a reviewer at least four uses of the app to learn that you can switch between tables and graphs.
It is not revolutionary – but doesn’t have to be. The app fulfills its purpose without frills: in providing graphics and hard data to help the public understand current transportation trends. And it might even be a little entertaining to scroll through while you wait for your bus.
BTS seems to understand this, since the app’s About page dryly reads:
The Pocket Guide to Transportation is a compilation of statistics that provide key information the U.S. transportation system and highlight major trends. Intended as a compact reference, it supports the Bureau of Transportation Statistics mission to create, manage, and share transportation statistical knowledge.