Once-in-a-decade Regional Travel Survey kicks off


By this time next year, approximately 15,000 randomly selected households across the National Capital Region and neighboring jurisdictions will have participated in the TPB’s once-in-a-decade Regional Travel Survey, helping to paint a detailed picture of the daily travel patterns of people who call this region home.

The survey, which kicked off October 3, asks households to share information about their usual travel patterns as well as to complete a detailed travel diary for one randomly assigned weekday. For the travel diary portion of the survey, participants record every trip they and the members of their household make over the course of the assigned day, including trips to school, work, errands, recreation, and more. For each trip, they note where, when, and how they travel, who they travel with, and what activities they engage in at each of their destinations.

Example Travel Day - 2017/2018 Regional Travel Survey
The 2017/2018 Regional Travel Survey asks randomly selected households to record every trip they make over the course of an assigned 24-hour period, noting where, when, and how they travel and who they travel with. (TPB)

Households for this survey are being recruited through mailed invitations and have the option of providing their survey responses via a specially designed web-based app or by telephone.

A critical MPO responsibility and valuable service to member governments and agencies

Travel Log - 2017/2018 Regional Travel Survey
The travel diary for the 2017/2018 Regional Travel Survey provides space for participants to record all of the trips they make during an assigned 24-hour period, including where, when, and how they travel and who they travel with . (TPB)

The Regional Travel Survey is easily the biggest and most significant data-collection effort the TPB undertakes in its role as the region’s metropolitan planning organization (MPO).

It provides a comprehensive, regional look at travel patterns and how and why those patterns are changing over time. It also provides critical inputs into the travel models the TPB uses to forecast future travel patterns and vehicle emissions. These models aid regional planning and decision making by showing how current plans are likely to affect travel patterns and travel conditions and whether they support the region’s long-term air quality goals.

Beyond these uses, the regional travel survey results are useful to TPB member governments and agencies. These local, state, regional, and federal partners frequently draw on the survey results to inform local traffic studies, aid the development of transportation master plans, and support many other planning activities in their respective jurisdictions and areas of interest.

Looking to see how technology and other advances have changed how we get around

The once-in-a-decade Regional Travel Survey is also an important chance to understand whether and how technological and other advances over the last 10 years have altered regional travel patterns.

Easily the most significant change since the last survey in 2007/2008 is the widespread availability and use of smartphones. These devices, which most people now own and use, provide access to ride-hailing apps like Uber and Lyft, traffic-information and route-navigation apps like Waze and Google Maps, and real-time arrival and trip-planning for transit, ridesharing, bikesharing, and other forms of travel. Such tools can affect all aspects of trip choice, including where, when, how, and with whom we travel.

How have new transportation options like bus rapid transit (BRT) in Arlington and Alexandria altered regional travel patterns? The TPB’s  2017/2018 Regional Travel Survey will aim to find out. (BeyondDC/Flickr)

The 2017/2018 survey will look at the effects of other technological changes, too, including the rise of teleworking and online shopping. The TPB’s 2016 State of the Commute survey found that nearly 1 in 3 workers in the region say they telework at least occasionally, up from just 1 in 5 in 2007. And TPB freight planners say that the total value of online retail sales nationally has more than doubled since the last survey. Being able to meet more of our daily needs without leaving home affects our travel patterns—but how, exactly?

Understanding the effects of changing travel options is another aim of the 2017/2018 Regional Travel Survey. Over the last 10 years, the region has seen a number of new facilities and services come online, including a new and widened Woodrow Wilson Bridge across the Potomac River, new Express Lanes on the Capital Beltway and I-95 in Virginia, new bus rapid transit (BRT) in Arlington and Alexandria, the District of Columbia’s H Street/Benning Road NE streetcar, and numerous bikesharing options. Unfortunately, it has also seen some other less-than-positive trends, including a number of high-profile safety and reliability incidents on Metro, which some observers say has pushed riders away. Again, how have these changes affected travel patterns at the regional level?

Survey results are expected in early 2019

The TPB’s Regional Travel Survey is an enormous logistical and statistical undertaking. Tens of thousands of invitation letters and follow-up postcards will be sent to randomly selected households on a rolling basis over the next year. Once data from at least 15,000 households has been collected, the process of analyzing the results will begin. The TPB’s survey analysts expect to present preliminary findings in early 2019, with more in-depth results rolling out as they become available.

For more information about the 2017/2018 Regional Travel Survey, visit the survey website at RegionalTravelSurvey.com.

Cover photo by Christopher Connell on Flickr.

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