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Identify and Contact Local, State, Federal and Non-Profit Information Clearinghouses

A clearinghouse is an agency or organization that collects and distributes information, and is therefore is a go-to place for information searches. Depending on the broadness and nature of the question or statement, certain organizations will be more useful than others. To determine which clearinghouse will have the sought-after information, make sure to start broadly. Consult a general information source before drilling down to specifics, unless the potential source of information is obvious. A library is a general information source, and librarians can direct patrons to more specific sources. Below, view common transportation information clearinghouses, and what type of information can likely be found in each. 

Public Libraries: Find local, state, federal laws; books on general best practices; articles in newspapers/journals; area-specific demographic information; and help locating information. This is a very broad and general type of clearinghouse, and therefore a good starting point for some searches.

State Department of Transportation (DOT) Libraries: Training, technical specifications, journal articles, laws, best practices and rules relating to transportation, and help locating information. State DOT libraries are more specific in scope than public libraries, and will be more relevant to some rural and Tribal transit-related searches. See Appendix 3 for a listing of State DOT libraries.

Transit groups and organizations designed to give technical assistance: training and technical assistance, industry best practices, and help locating information. A guide to many of these can be found in later sections of this toolkit. National RTAP is an example of this type of clearinghouse.

Local Chambers of Commerce: Programs, resources, services to help connect businesses to residents, and sometimes local grant money. 

Local Government offices: Local laws, local assistance, and possibly local grant money. Local government offices can include town or village hall, planning and finance departments, and town commissions and councils.

Human Service Organizations: (Red Cross, United Way, faith-based groups, etc)—Local needs, demographics, local challenges, partnerships, potential customers, and sometimes financial assistance.

Federal Agencies: Many federal agencies deal with transit in a direct or indirect way. For example, the FTA, DOT, USDA, and FHWA all provide some information, training, or other resources related to transit. 

Put it All Together

For example, suppose that a law that affects transportation has recently been enacted and you need to know how it will impact your transit agency. 

  1. Formulate a question—“What is the language of the new law?” or “How will the new law affect my transit agency?”
  2. Narrow the topic by thinking about where the information might be found.  For example, was it a federal, state or local law?  Determining what level of government enacted the law will help narrow down where to look; probably on a federal or state website, and in the appropriate US or State Code Book. 
  3. Do a broad Internet keyword search to find some preliminary information about new laws that may have been enacted. Narrow the search to find the appropriate law. 
  4. Contact the appropriate government agency or organization that provides best practices and technical assistance in that subject area. If you cannot find the law’s language or an online version of the law, contact a local library or State DOT library for help. When calling, ask for the reference desk, although some small public libraries and many State DOT libraries have small staffs.