The National Academies

TCRP Synthesis J-07/Topic SH-18 [Active (Synthesis)]

On-Board Survey Methods and Technologies
[ TCRP J-07 (Synthesis of Information Related to Transit Practices) ]

  Project Data
Funds: $45,000
Authorization to Begin Work: 6/2/2017 -- estimated
Staff Responsibility: Mariela Garcia-Colberg
Research Agency: FourSquare Integrated Transportation Planning
Principal Investigator: Andrew Zalewski
Effective Date: 9/20/2017
Fiscal Year: 2017

Final Scope

Traditional Origin-Destination (O-D) data for transit riders provide critical information for planners seeking to make informed decisions about changes to transit services. Capturing the exact points of origin and destination for a trip as well as the trip path and rider characteristics gives planners the data they need to understand the true trip-making habits of their riders. As a result, agencies can better target improvements to existing services. O-D surveys are often conducted using paper-based survey forms handed out to riders, or more recently with tablets that survey administrators use to interview riders. Recent advances in technology and methodology may address the myriad challenges of traditional survey methods. However, these emerging technologies may pose new challenges.
The purpose of this synthesis is to evaluate the opportunities and challenges of current and emerging methods of rider data collection.
Information to be gathered will include (not an exhaustive list):
• What are the purposes of doing a survey? Are different surveys used for different purposes (for example Title VI fare and equity analysis, etc)? How do these considerations influence the methodology used?
• What are the current methods to collect boarding/alighting and – more importantly – origin-destination information (i.e., at the “whole trip” level)? With new technology, particularly in terms of the various locational/spatial capabilities of mobile technology, are there new methods of gathering origin-destination (and trip-linking) data that do not rely on surveys?

• If origin-destination information is collected using emerging technologies rather than paper surveys, what are the methods for collecting other necessary information from passengers, such as Title VI information and other preference information that can be used to make planning decisions? How do we combine information gathered from different sources?

• Are there methods to harness the “big data” being collected by both transit service operators and telecommunications service providers (i.e., anonymous data that aren’t linked to a specific person) that can better inform the data expansion, transit service planning process and other uses? When data are gathered by harnessing rider’s personal devices, what are the proven and emerging methods to transform the sample data into a robust representation of the total ridership? What are the pros and cons of using these data?

• When origin-destination and other information is gathered by the voluntary participation of riders through their personal devices (opt-in), what are the proven and emerging methods to transform this into a robust sample of the total ridership, taking account of factors such the population segments who have suitable personal devices. Are there differences between those who will/can participate in such surveys and those who do not?

• What are the differences in data quality between self-administered (paper, tablet, web-based, hybrid) and interviewer-administered surveys?

• What new skills and associated training are required for consultants (including surveyors) and agencies’ staff of various sizes to prepare for and utilize these new tools, methods, and data sets? What type of coordination needs to occur within, between and among agencies regarding survey administration?

• Several transit agencies have benefited from third-party crowd-sourcing applications to gather travel demand and feedback data from customers. Using open source tools that already exist, how can transit agencies leverage public participation to supplement and replace traditional survey methods? What are the pros and cons of using these applications?

The synthesis report will provide a summary of the information gathered above and should include:
• An overview of the practices and procedures transit agencies use to conduct origin-destination surveys, their costs, and their pros and cons.
• The new technologies and techniques agencies are utilizing to collect origin-destination data that is useful for planning purposes and with a sample size that is representative of the population of riders. The new technologies and new sources of data used to determine appropriate sampling plans.
• How agencies are using “big data” for travel pattern information.
• What agencies are doing about collecting Title VI data.
• What skills and training are most needed for adoption and utilizing new techniques and technologies, and performing modern data analytics?
Information will be gathered by a literature review, including the international perspective (e.g. agency reports, peer reviewed journal articles, web articles), and a survey of transit agencies and/or MPOs (diverse in terms of size, geography, ridership level and consultant contracted), and on-board survey contractors. The report should include five case examples of transit agencies that exhibit innovative practices in O-D data collection techniques, tools, and/or analysis. The synthesis will gather information on the state-of-the-practice, emphasizing lessons learned, challenges, and needs for future research. 

TRB Staff
Mariela Garcia-Colberg
Phone: 202-334-2361
Email: mgarciacolberg@nas.edu

Meeting Dates
First Panel: September 20, 2017, Washington, DC
Teleconference with Consultant: October 11, 2017, 11:00 a.m., EST
Second Panel: May 23, 2018, Washington, DC

Panel Members
Brian Brooke, Sound Transit
Baofeng Dong, TriMet
Jonathan N. Ehrlich, Metropolitian Council
Victoria Perk, University of South Florida, Tampa
Kevin Pullis, WBA Research
Joshua Rocks, Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission
Guy Rousseau, Atlanta Regional Commission
Samantha A. Sink, Hampton Roads Transit
Ken Cervenka, Federal Transit Administration
Faisal Chowdhury, Federal Transit Administration
Stephen J. Andrle, Transportation Research Board

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