“In the Moment” Travel Study

Madison County Council of Governments and Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) Office of Planning and Office of Transportation Policy Studies

Federal governments, state DOTs, and regional governments rely on results from household travel surveys (HTS) to assist in transportation modeling and planning projects. Traditional HTS typically collect a single day’s worth of travel from a sample of area residents via travel diary web survey, call center, and/or paper survey. However, recent research suggests GPS data and longer data collection periods (e.g., a week or more) are warranted to provide better data for modeling and understanding trends. A new method is needed to accurately collect travel data over a week or more without overburdening respondents.

The “In the Moment” Travel Study (ITM) was a proof-of-concept study to fully replace a traditional HTS experience with a sophisticated location-aware (i.e., GPS-enabled) mobile application and web service that captures all travel behavior and travel characteristics currently collected by traditional household travel diaries. This pilot project asked participants to download the rMove™ smartphone app to their Android or iOS (Apple) smartphone to capture their daily travel for a week, and then asked a short set of survey questions after each trip. Among around 300 participants, almost 90% answered every single survey for the entire week of data collection. The results of the project are: 1) being compared to a 2014 HTS project in the same region, and 2) being evaluated for further improvements to advance the technology, reduce respondent burden, and eventually fully replace traditional HTS.

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