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The National Academies

NCHRP 08-37 [Completed]

Standardized Procedures for Personal Travel Surveys

  Project Data
Funds: $370,000 (including $70,000 from NCHRP 8-36 (Task 41))
Research Agency: Louisiana Transportation Research Center
Principal Investigator: Peter R. Stopher
Effective Date: 3/7/2000
Completion Date: 4/30/2008

Background: Transportation surveys are the most typical way to obtain personal travel behavior information used by the transportation community. These surveys serve two primary roles within the transportation planning process: First, they describe travel trends to support understanding of demands on the transportation system and to identify areas in which problems can be expected. Second, they provide information for travel forecasting and other models that are used to identify potential long-term problems and to test the efficacy of proposed solutions.

Although transportation planners have employed personal travel surveys for over 40 years, there are no standards for determining what constitutes an acceptable level of quality or reliability in the conduct and evaluation of these surveys. Thus, the quality and design of the surveys may vary widely. Currently, there are no consistent, objective standards applied throughout the transportation community to survey data and to the conduct, analysis, and application of surveys. Some degree of standardization can improve the consistency of transportation-planning data, the accuracy of models, and the quality of transportation decisions.

The proceedings of two recent TRB conferences (the 1995 conference, "Household Travel Surveys: New Concepts and Research Needs," and the 1997 conference, "Information Needs to Support State and Local Transportation Decision Making into the 21st Century") and NCHRP Synthesis 236: "Methods for Household Travel Surveys," have emphasized the need for improved standardization in survey data collection. Declining response rates and potential sample biases are major issues. Resources are being wasted because standards are lacking in both survey methods and assessment procedures. Additionally, comparisons of travel from one metropolitan area to another are often difficult to accomplish because of the differences in survey methods.

The results of this research will be useful to transportation practitioners in state Departments of Transportation (DOTs) and in Metropolitan Planning Organizations (MPOs) for preparing statistically sound data collection and management programs.

Objective: The objective of this project is to develop standardized procedures for improving the conduct, evaluation, and reliability of personal travel surveys. The project will identify and prioritize those survey procedures (e.g., selecting samples, reporting results, and editing data) within the personal travel survey process that lend themselves to standardization. It will define assessment measures (e.g., standard errors, confidence intervals, response rates, and response bias) for those procedures and identify costs and tradeoffs to improve the reliability of survey results. Finally, the project will test and evaluate proposed procedures and their relative effectiveness.

Tasks: Accomplishment of this objective will require at least the following tasks: (1) Critically review the state of the practice as documented in relevant research, literature, state DOT and MPO procedure documents, and information developed by the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), Federal Transit Administration (FTA), and others. Provide a synthesis of personal travel survey data collection techniques and assessment measures that lend themselves to standardization. In particular, identify standardized procedures that are used by the survey research, polling, and marketing industries (e.g., Council of American Survey Research Organizations [CASRO] and International Organization for Standardization [ISO]). (2) Identify survey procedures and assessment measures with the greatest potential for standardization, and categorize them as follows: (a) Those already in use at selected organizations having immediate application throughout the planning industry, (b) those that can be developed through testing as part of this project (develop a protocol for testing in later phases of this project), and (c) those requiring research beyond the scope of this project. (3) Submit an interim report that documents the work performed in Tasks 1 and 2 and that recommends any necessary revisions to the work plan for the remaining project tasks. Present the information in the interim report at a meeting of the panel, and obtain NCHRP approval before initiating Task 4 and subsequent activities. (4) Prepare a summary of the interim report for publication as an NCHRP Research Results Digest. (5) Test selected procedures identified in Task 2b following the protocol developed in Task 2b. The testing must assess the effectiveness of the selected procedures. The testing may include conducting limited personal travel surveys. (6) Prepare a final report for dissemination of the research findings, recommended procedures, and implementation recommendations to appropriate federal, state, and local practitioners. Recommend appropriate training approaches and priorities to encourage widespread adoption and use of the procedures. Identify research needs emanating from activities associated with this project.

Status: The project has been completed. The final report is available online at
http://www.trb.org/Main/Public/Blurbs/155656.aspx.  A technical appendix to the report is available as a NCHRP WEB-DOC at http://onlinepubs.trb.org/onlinepubs/nchrp/nchrp_w93.pdf.

Product Availability: The Phase 1 results were summarized in
NCHRP Research Results Digest 261.

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