The National Academies

NCHRP 08-132 [RFP]

Accessing America's Great Outdoors: Forecasting Recreational Travel Demand

Posted Date: 1/3/2020

  Project Data
Funds: $450,000
Contract Time: 24 months
(includes 1 month for NCHRP review and approval of the Phase 1 report and 3 months for NCHRP review and for contractor revision of the final report)
Authorization to Begin Work: 6/1/2020 -- estimated
Staff Responsibility: Lawrence D. Goldstein
   Phone: (202) 334-1866
   Email: lgoldstein@nas.edu
RFP Close Date: 2/25/2020
Fiscal Year: 2020

Recreational travel has expanded rapidly in the recent past and continues to stress our nation’s transportation system. Domestic leisure travel increased 2.0 percent in 2018 to 1.8 billion person-trips (U.S. Travel Association). Recreational visits to America’s national parks in 2018 exceeded 300 million for the fourth consecutive year, reaching 318.2 million, which is the third highest since record keeping began in 1904 (National Park Service, Office of Communications). This rapid growth in recreational travel continues to affect urban and rural areas throughout the country, placing new and changing demands (traffic congestion, air pollution, etc.) on transportation systems. Many national parks have experienced rapid, substantial changes in visitation rates over the last 5 years (as high as 40% and 60% increase at some units), resulting in congested access roads, intersections, and entrance stations for many parks as well as gateway or intervening communities (Yellowstone Transportation and Vehicle Mobility Study; Yellowstone National Park Visitor Use Study; Acadia Transportation Plan/FEIS). As a result, managing this travel demand has been increasingly challenging. 

What contributes further to the complexities is that outdoor recreation is also a significant regional and national economic generator, contributing $373.7 billion to the U.S. economy (or 2% of total GDP) in 2016. This value exceeded economic contributions of other industries that access similar lands (e.g., mining, oil, and gas extraction) at 1.4% of total GDP (
U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis, Outdoor Recreation Satellite Account). The outdoor recreation economy grew at a faster rate than the national economy, 3.8 percent in 2016 compared with the overall U.S. economy’s 2.8 percent growth during that same period. The economy of many communities in rural areas is highly dependent on recreational travel.

As the recreation sector of the economy has grown, transportation system performance has often been degraded, affecting the quality of the travel experience felt by both visitors and local community residents and businesses. Reasoned investment decisions affecting recreation-related multimodal transportation infrastructure, operations, and management are difficult without a greater ability to understand, document, and plan effectively for future system performance. Given these concerns, there is a great need for research to improve understanding of recreational travel demand and patterns and how to build on that understanding to improve overall transportation system planning, forecasting, and investment. Without this information, federal land managers, states, and communities have limited capability to make reasoned decisions about physical and operational transportation improvements. 


The objectives of this project are to develop the following:
  1. A recreational travel demand model component that is compatible with and can be incorporated into, or used in conjunction with, transportation demand models currently in use by state DOTs, MPOs, and other transportation planning agencies. 
  2. Guidelines for state DOTs and other affected transportation and land management agencies on enhanced recreational travel modeling using the recreational travel demand component: 
    1. Description and assessment of existing methods and procedures for evaluating recreational travel demand and associated data gaps, focusing on public lands (federal, state, and local). This assessment will provide the baseline needed for effective analytical approaches to measure the effects of changing recreational travel demand and the impact recreational travel has on transportation system performance.
    2. Identification and exploration of factors driving recreational travel volumes and patterns. The outcome and products of this study should clearly describe which factors are correlated with recreational visitation (number of visitors to a site) versus which factors drive changes in recreational travel (travel to and from sites).

These guidelines will help state DOTs and other transportation and land management agencies integrate recreational travel demand into overall transportation system planning and forecasting, enabling affected jurisdictions to make better-informed decisions about investments in multimodal transportation improvements, economic development, and other issues that may enhance traveler experience and improve quality of life for residents in affected communities.

Note: For the purposes of this RFP, “recreational travel” refers to travel to federal public land units (National Park Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Bureau of Land Management, U.S. Forest Service, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and other federal land management sites); state parks and other state-owned recreation sites; and other public recreational destinations. These public land destinations may be in rural or urban areas. Commercially-owned destinations and theme parks are not included. “Recreational travel” includes both same-day and overnight travel and travel from both nearby and long-distance origins. “Recreational travel” includes both domestic and international visitors.


Proposers are asked to present a detailed research plan for accomplishing the project objectives. Proposers are expected to describe research plans that can realistically be accomplished within the constraints of available funds and contract time, including an indication of how proposed research will make use of and build on current requirements and practices. Proposals must demonstrate in sufficient detail an understanding of the issues and a sound approach to meeting the research objectives. It should also include a review of other related studies in general and NCHRP research studies in particular. Proposers are encouraged to include a narrative describing their assessment of the challenges and risks associated with attempting to model recreational travel demand, and why the method and approach they have chosen is likely to minimize risk of failure in creating an effective recreational travel demand model component.

The research plan should (1) include a kick-off web conference to review the amplified work plan with the NCHRP project panel, convened within 1 month of the contract’s execution; (2) address how the proposer intends to satisfy the project objective; (3) be divided logically into (at least) two phases encompassing specific detailed tasks for each phase that are necessary to fulfill the research objectives, including appropriate milestones and interim deliverables; and (4) incorporate opportunities for the project panel to review, comment on, and approve milestone deliverables.

The research plan should delineate the tasks required to build and test a travel demand component that is specific to recreational travel demand, patterns, and demographics. This component should provide a reliable and valid tool to help make informed decisions about transportation system investments that improve access, traveler experience, and asset management. This component will be designed for use by state DOTs, local governments, and other agencies involved in developing and implementing transportation system plans and programs.

Phase I

Work in Phase I will result in a preliminary framework for a recreational travel demand model component built on an analysis of existing conditions, trends, and factors affecting future recreational travel demand. This work will include, but not be limited to, the following:
  1. Document methods and factors agencies typically use to forecast recreational travel demand and how those forecasts are incorporated into state and regional transportation system planning.
  2. Document and describe the state-of-the-practice in recreational travel demand modeling as it affects transportation system planning, design, operations, and investment decisions. 
  3. Explore and document which factors (economic, demographic, marketing, seasonal/ temporal, geographic, etc.) drive recreational travel volumes and patterns and describe how these factors affect recreational travel demand in diverse settings (mountainous, coastal, rural, urban, etc.).
  4. Identify existing and potential data sources that can support these modeling efforts.
The model component framework should be designed to project recreational travel demand on state and local transportation infrastructure to allow responsible jurisdictions to make informed transportation systems management and operations (TSMO) decisions, and decisions about investments in economic development, transportation infrastructure, and other system elements.

The work accomplished in Phase I will result in an interim report that describes the preliminary steps necessary to analyze and understand recreational travel patterns and investment needs for transportation systems and presents the model framework for development in Phase II. The interim report will also include a refined scope of work for developing and validating the recreational demand component along with accompanying documentation and explanation in Phase II. The panel will meet with the research team at the end of Phase I to review and approve the interim report. NCHRP approval of the interim report is required before proceeding with Phase II. 

Phase II

Using the products of Phase I, work in Phase II will develop the model component to understand and predict recreational travel demand on transportation systems at local, regional, and/or state levels. Work in Phase II will also include demonstrating how the recreational model component will work in diverse settings (mountainous, coastal, rural, urban, etc.), drawn from National Park Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Bureau of Land Management, U.S. Forest Service, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, other federal land management sites, state sites, or other public recreational destinations. As part of the work accomplished in this phase, the model component will be tested, refined, and validated.

Final deliverables of Phase II will include at a minimum:
  • The recreational travel demand model component, which can be used in collaboration with transportation demand models to project recreational travel demand. The model component will include documentation of the development and validation process (see Special Note E). 
  • A detailed guidebook for state DOTs and other transportation agencies to accompany the travel demand model component, defining critical steps in the recreational travel demand forecasting process and methods. The guidebook will include a presentation/description of the predictive recreational travel demand component with guidelines and instructions for application at state, regional, or local levels.
  • A contractor’s final report that documents the entire research effort. This report should also include recommendations for additional validation in diverse settings, research on applicable procedures, analytical methods, and tools.
  • A stand-alone executive summary that outlines the research findings and recommendations.
  • Communication material aimed at state DOTs and other transportation and land management agencies that explains why the integration approach and supporting guidance are helpful and how they will be applied.
  • A stand-alone technical memorandum entitled, “Implementation of Research Findings and Products” (See Special Note B).
The research plan should build in appropriate checkpoints with the NCHRP project panel including, at a minimum, (1) a kick-off teleconference meeting to be held within 1 month of the contract’s execution date; (2) the face-to-face interim deliverable review meeting to be held at the end of phase I; and (3) at least two additional web-enabled teleconferences tied to NCHRP review and approval of any other interim deliverables as deemed appropriate.

Note: The cost of teleconferences, in-person meeting venue, and NCHRP panel member travel will be paid by NCHRP.


A. Proposals should include a task-by-task breakdown of labor hours for each staff member as shown in Figure 4 in the brochure, "Information and Instructions for Preparing Proposals" (
http://onlinepubs.trb.org/onlinepubs/crp/docs/ProposalPrep.pdf). Proposals also should include a breakdown of all costs (e.g., wages, indirect costs, travel, materials, and total) for each task using Figures 5 and 6 in the brochure. Please note that TRB Cooperative Research Program subawards (selected proposers are considered subawards to the National Academy of Sciences, the parent organization of TRB) must comply with 2 CFR 200 – Uniform Administrative Requirements, Cost Principles, and Audit Requirements for Federal Awards. These requirements include a provision that proposers without a "federally" Negotiated Indirect Costs Rate Agreement (NICRA) shall be subject to a maximum allowable indirect rate of 10% of Modified Total Direct Costs. Modified Total Direct Costs include all salaries and wages, applicable fringe benefits, materials and supplies, services, travel, and up to the first $25,000 of each lower-tier subaward and subcontract. Modified Total Direct Costs exclude equipment, capital expenditures, charges for patient care, rental costs, tuition remission, scholarships and fellowships, participant support costs and the portion of each lower-tier subaward and subcontract in excess of $25,000.

B. The NCHRP is a practical, applied research program that produces implementable products addressing problems faced by transportation practitioners and managers. The benefits of NCHRP research are realized only when the results are implemented in state DOTs and other agencies. Implementation of the research product must be considered throughout the process, from problem statement development to research contract and beyond completion of the research. Item 4(c), "Anticipated Research Results," must include the following: (a) the "product" expected from the research, (b) the audience or "market" for this product, (c) a realistic assessment of impediments to successful implementation, and (d) the institutions and individuals who might take leadership in deploying the research product. The project panel will develop and maintain an implementation plan throughout the life of the project. The research team will be expected to provide input to an implementation team consisting of panel members, AASHTO committee members, the NCHRP Implementation Coordinator, and others in order to meet the goals of NCHRP Active Implementation: Moving Research into Practice, available at

C. Item 5 in the proposal, "Qualifications of the Research Team," must include a section labeled "Disclosure." Information relevant to the NCHRP's need to ensure objectivity and to be aware of possible sources of significant financial or organizational conflict of interest in conducting the research must be presented in this section of the proposal. For example, under certain conditions, ownership of the proposing agency, other organizational relationships, or proprietary rights and interests could be perceived as jeopardizing an objective approach to the research effort, and proposers are asked to disclose any such circumstances and to explain how they will be accounted for in this study. If there are no issues related to objectivity, this should be stated.

D. Proposals are evaluated by the NCHRP staff and project panels consisting of individuals collectively very knowledgeable in the problem area. Selection of an agency is made by the project panel considering the following factors: (1) the proposer's demonstrated understanding of the problem; (2) the merit of the proposed research approach and experiment design; (3) the experience, qualifications, and objectivity of the research team in the same or closely related problem area; (4) the plan for ensuring application of results; (5) how the proposer approaches inclusion and diversity in the composition of their team and research approach, including participation by certified Disadvantaged Business Enterprises; and, if relevant, (6) the adequacy of the facilities.

Note: The proposer's approach to inclusion and diversity as well as participation by Disadvantaged Business Enterprises should be incorporated in Item 12 of the proposal.
E. With respect to the recreational demand model component, the selected contractor shall provide protocols for testing, maintaining, and troubleshooting and deliver the following derived products where applicable: (1) developed computer databases; (2) programs; (3) software (including complete source code, object code listings, design details, algorithms, processes, flowcharts, formulae, and related material that would enable the software to be reproduced); and (4) software documentation developed during this research study. Included in the final product, the model documentation must address the following:
  • Planning and Design
  • Analysis Systems Requirements
  • Systems Design and Development
  • Integration and Testing
  • Implementation/Deployment
  • Maintenance
F. Copyrights - All data, written materials, computer software, graphic and photographic images, and other information prepared under the contract and the copyrights therein shall be owned by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. The contractor and subcontractors will be able to publish this material for non-commercial purposes, for internal use, or to further academic research or studies with permission from TRB Cooperative Research Programs. The contractor and subcontractors will not be allowed to sell the project material without prior approval by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. By signing a contract with the National Academy of Sciences, contractors accept legal responsibility for any copyright infringement that may exist in work done for TRB. Contractors are therefore responsible for obtaining all necessary permissions for use of copyrighted material in TRB's Cooperative Research Programs publications. For guidance on TRB's policies on using copyrighted material, please consult Section 5.4, "Use of Copyrighted Material," in the Procedural Manual for Contractors.

Proposals (15 single-bound copies) are due not later than 4:30 p.m. on 2/25/2020.

This is a firm deadline, and extensions are not granted. In order to be considered for award, all copies of the agency's proposal accompanied by the executed, unmodified Liability Statement must be in our offices not later than the deadline shown, or the proposal will be rejected. Proposers may choose any carrier or delivery service for their proposals. However, proposers assume the risk of proposal rejection if the carrier or delivery service does not deliver all the required documents by the deadline.

Delivery Address:

ATTN: Christopher J. Hedges
Director, Cooperative Research Programs
Transportation Research Board
500 Fifth Street, NW
Washington, DC 20001

Liability Statement

The signature of an authorized representative of the proposing agency is required on the unaltered liability statement in order for the NCHRP to accept the agency's proposal for consideration. Proposals submitted without this executed and unaltered statement by the proposal deadline will be summarily rejected. An executed, unaltered statement indicates the agency's intent and ability to execute a contract that includes the provisions in the statement.

Here is a printable version of the Liability Statement (pdf). A free copy of the Adobe Acrobat PDF reader is available at http://www.adobe.com.

General Notes

1. According to the provisions of Title 49, Code of Federal Regulations, Part 21, which relates to nondiscrimination in federally assisted programs, all parties are hereby notified that the contract entered into pursuant to this announcement will be awarded without discrimination on the grounds of race, color, religion, sex, national origin, or disability.

2. The essential features required in a proposal for research are detailed in the current brochure entitled "Information and Instructions for Preparing Proposals" (updated July 2019). Proposals must be prepared according to this document, and attention is directed specifically to Section V for mandatory requirements. Proposals that do not conform with these requirements will be rejected. This brochure is available here.

3. The total funds available are made known in the project statement, and line items of the budget are examined to determine the reasonableness of the allocation of funds to the various tasks. If the proposed total cost exceeds the funds available, the proposal is rejected.

4. All proposals become the property of the Transportation Research Board. Final disposition will be made according to the policies thereof, including the right to reject all proposals.


Potential proposers should understand clearly that the research project described herein is tentative. The final content of the program depends on the level of funding made available through States' agreements for financial support of the NCHRP. Nevertheless, to be prepared to execute research contracts as soon as possible after sponsors' approvals, the NCHRP is assuming that the tentative program will become official in its entirety and is proceeding with requests for proposals and selections of research agencies.

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