State and local agencies have been presented with an increasing abundance of data, including probe-based travel time data and National Performance Management Data Sets (NPMRDS) from vehicles using apps such as Waze, Google Maps, and Apple Maps. Fortunately, this data is available to agencies at no cost. However, the data sets are in a raw, unfiltered form, which can be unusable since many agencies have time and resource constraints. To make the data more applicable, the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) asked Kittelson to find a way to turn the data into understandable and measurable information that could influence decision making.


The first step was to determine whether the data had a functional application when analyzing past road improvements or potential roadway investments. To accomplish this, Kittelson conducted before-and-after analyses of roads with part-time shoulder use, restriping projects, interchange improvement projects, and/or work zone projects by extracting information from the raw data. The information gathered from these analyses helped to measure factors such as speed improvements, queue lengths, extent of congestion, and reliability. From these analyses, we determined that the data could provide quantifiable evidence of whether a roadway needed improvements or whether a roadway investment was effective.

Next, the data needed to be made practical and applicable for state and local agencies. Kittelson created a Sketch Tool software program, which turns advanced data-manipulation tasks into a user-friendly process that can influence agency funding and decisions. Sketch Tool allows individuals to load the raw data and transform it into legible, measurable information.

In order to produce this tool, Kittelson created a data collection and experimentation plan; identified functional requirements for the proposed tool; developed and tested visualization approaches for displaying the data; designed and developed a prototype of the tool; modeled the tool’s validation by testing the travel reliability of I-66 in Northern Virginia; obtained user feedback; developed a user manual for the tool; and finally, implemented the Sketch Tool as a desktop application.

The Outcome

Helping Agencies Find Order In Data Chaos

The Kittelson-designed probe data analysis, Sketch Tool, has helped to streamline data import and simplify data manipulation and analysis for state and local agencies. In addition, Kittelson created two documents – the User Guide and Case Study Memo – and demonstrated that the probe data and NPMRDS is usable and valuable.


Washington, D.C.