Case Study: New Mexico DOT Desktop STIP
The New Mexico Department of Transportation (NMDOT) Desktop STIP is a web-based database enabling NMDOT, Metropolitan Planning Organizations (MPOs), Regional Planning Organizations (RPOs), and district offices to submit project adjustments and amendments electronically for approval. Further, all NMDOT transit personnel and statewide operators, plus the Region 6 FTA office in Fort Worth, Texas have access to the Desktop STIP application. The NMDOT STIP Development Unit is working with the New Mexico FHWA Division Office to establish on-line approval procedures utilizing the Desktop STIP. (Paper records still accompany electronic approvals and STIPs are still approved by the Federal Highway Administration and Federal Transit Administration via paper.) The project was developed over a two-year period and its goal was to streamline the entire STIP planning process. It became available to NMDOT and agencies participating in the STIP process in March of 2004. Access will be expanded to the general public.
NMDOT now uses the system for managing its STIP and all participating agencies also use it to submit projects and amendments. Currently, the system users comprise individuals from the following groups:
The web-based application is available over the Internet and requires a onetime download of JInitiator (Java runtime component by Oracle required to run the application) during the installation in order to operate the application. The download of JInitiator is an automatic process triggered when the user accesses the Web-based application the first time. Once installed, users are able to access information about all STIP projects and produce reports based on their own criteria. The reports are automatically generated in an Adobe PDF format that can be saved to a file. NMDOT also uses the Desktop STIP program to generate the PDF version of the STIP report that is posted on its web site.
The Desktop STIP has helped NMDOT and the user stakeholders become more efficient in managing the STIP process. This has helped to standardize certain aspects such as scheduling and submission language.
NMDOT decided to develop the desktop STIP because of a desire to upgrade from its previous method of handling the STIP. NMDOT previously operated an old mainframe computer system that was expensive to maintain and not efficient in helping to manage the STIP process. The new application is an Oracle platform that is more powerful than many of the contemporary E-STIP programs. It currently serves as a STIP management tool for NMDOT. Following is a description of some of the more important benefits that have resulted from the launch of the system:
A. Report Feature
One of the most important features of the new Desktop STIP is the reports feature. Users of the system can select from a diverse set of reports. The report functions allow the user to filter on several characteristics to tailor the report. By using certain criteria to search for projects the user can then generate their report/s based on those criteria. For example, a user could produce a report containing all projects within a certain jurisdiction and work type or funding category. The report generation feature is one of the most helpful according to users. Below is a screenshot showing the available reports that users can generate.
Figure 1: Screenshot of Available Reports
NMDOT's Desktop STIP is designed for federal, state and local agency use as well as for the general public. The public can logon as guests and view STIP project information. Government agency users have varying levels of access depending on need. MPOs and RPOs have access to submit projects to the STIP. Below is the Desktop STIP logon screen. It allows users to enter a username and password or to simply logon as a guest without the username and password requirement. Access will be expanded to the public.
Figure 2: Logon screen
C. Search Features
Desktop STIP offers users a variety of search categories. Below is a screen shot showing the types of searches that are available. The user may search by the following: posted route, city, project number, county, funding program, work type, area COG, and terminus.
Figure 3: Search page
D. Project Information
Users can identify a single project to review by using the search feature described above. Once the user identifies a project, there are different types of information available. Below is a screen shot that shows the general project information page. At the top are tabs that take users to other project information including: location, project number, work types, related projects, and notes. The notes feature is described in greater detail below.
Figure 4: Project information page
E. Notes Feature
One of the features that is important for NMDOT internal use is the notes feature. Desktop STIP allows users with permission to post notes about specific projects that are available to view only by other users with permission. This can promote effective communication between government agencies. Agencies can include notes on projects that are accessible to the Work Plan Administrators only. This is because some project notes might be of a sensitive nature. As most of the projects are let or awarded by RFP, notes containing information such as contracting and proprietary pricing information must be restricted. These notes can be added as Restricted to Plan Administrator notes that can be viewed only by Work Plan Administrators that have the appropriate access level to the information. Below is a screen shot showing the notes feature.
Figure 5: Print Notes page
IV. Desktop STIP Development
The Desktop STIP program was developed over a period of two years. In February of 2002, the process began with extensive planning meetings to identify the goals of the new system and how the transition from the old mainframe computer would take place. NMDOT planners decided on the type of system they wanted and the new format of the electronic STIP. NMDOT decided that it would be helpful to have a powerful database tool to upgrade their existing system and help standardize certain parts of the STIP submittal and amendment process.
NMDOT used consultants to develop the new Desktop STIP database and train NMDOT information technology (IT) staff in system maintenance. The new database uses Oracle software and extracted information from NMDOT's Consolidated Highway Database (CHDB) in order to maintain the current data. To perform this task, NMDOT selected a consultant who was previously employed at NMDOT and was very familiar with the CHDB. This proved to be very helpful in developing the Desktop STIP.
Before completion of the Desktop STIP, NMDOT invited representatives from the MPOs, RPOs and districts who would be using it. These representatives tested a prototype version and NMDOT made changes and enhancements based on their suggestions. The NMDOT Desktop STIP began operation in March of 2004 for internal government users. It is not yet available to the general public.
V. Challenges and Lessons Learned
The main challenges faced by NMDOT in the development of the Desktop STIP were in understanding a complicated database system and handling coding, bugs and viruses. Making the system secure also posed questions such as how to give local governments and MPOs access to NMDOT servers with the variety of firewalls involved. Ensuring security for certain aspects such as write access was also a particular challenge. NMDOT overcame these challenges through extensive planning and developing a detailed vision of the final product during its planning process. Additionally, the consultant's familiarity with the CHDB and with NMDOT aided in overcoming challenges.
In general, the Desktop STIP has been very well received by users, particularly as it makes it much easier to generate different types of reports. Part of the reason for user satisfaction is that NMDOT has provided training for all users so that they can become familiar with the new software.
VI. Next Steps
The desktop STIP is currently in use by governmental agencies but not by the general public. Along with opening up the program to the general public, NMDOT is currently working to complete three other goals:
VII. Contact Information