Travel Surveys

Researchers in TTI’s Transportation Planning Program have decades of experience in travel survey design, methods, and related data analysis/visualization. They have a vast depth of knowledge and extensive experience in both traditional surveys and newer methods using smartphone apps, web surveys, and passive ‘crowd-sourced’ data. The team has national expertise in household, work place, commercial vehicle, and external travel surveys. They have designed, fielded, and analyzed travel surveys in dozens of metropolitan areas across Texas and the U.S. They translate this experience into technical support and expertise for agencies pursuing travel surveys for modeling, project/corridor studies, and policy analyses.

The TTI team are innovators and national leaders in the use passive data for travel survey applications. Over the past five years, they have conducted over 20 origin-destination (O-D) studies utilizing the latest and best sources of big data for passenger/consumer and commercial vehicle/truck travel. TTI researchers and data scientists have been on the cutting edge in the use and application of new technology data to supplement or replace traditional survey methods and data. They have conducted numerous first-of-their kind trials and studies to better understand the capabilities, limitations, and biases of cellular, GPS, and location-based services (LBS) data. Over the past many years, they have worked closely with industry leaders to provide expert third-party review and feedback of trip-based tools, websites, and apps for use in travel studies and/or commercial O-D analytical products and services for public agencies.

TTI researchers perform state-of-the-practice analyses of the survey data, which involves data expansion, development of trip rates, preparation of trip tables, trip-length distributions, evaluations of vehicle miles of travel, and generation of other required modeling inputs. To maximize the utility of the survey data, experienced data scientists and program specialists develop and maintain web-accessible visualization and reporting tools that illustrate survey results in an impactful manner to project sponsors and stakeholders.

Survey Types

Household Travel & Activity Surveys

Aerial view of a residential neighborhood. The purpose of Household Travel and Activity Surveys is to gather information about the amount of traffic generated by households in an urban area. Two main types of information are collected: demographic data and trip data. Demographic details include information about the household, its members, and the vehicles available to the household. Trip data obtained from household members includes information such as travel modes and vehicles, stop locations, trip purposes, and arrival and departure times. Households invited to take part in this type of survey are randomly selected from a list of all households in the area. Basic demographic information is collected via the internet or over the phone. Trips made on the survey day may be recorded in a variety of ways, including smartphone app, the internet, verbally over the phone, or via hardcopy log. Key survey results used for modeling purposes include trip production rates by trip purpose, trip-length frequency distributions, and an estimate of total internal travel by area residents.

Workplace & Special Generator Travel Surveys

Office building and parking lot. The purpose of Workplace Travel Surveys is to gather information about the amount of traffic generated by places of employment in an urban area. Three main types of information are collected: data about the workplace itself, trip data from employees and visitors, and trip data from commercial vehicle drivers. Details obtained include the size and characteristics of the workplace, the number of persons or vehicles traveling to and from the site, where individuals are coming from and going to next, and the type and amount of cargo dropped off or picked up by commercial vehicles. Any local places of employment such as private businesses, retailers and public agencies have a chance of being invited to participate in this type of survey. Area Special Generators with unique and significant trip-generating characteristics are also often asked to take part. Vehicle or pedestrian counts are collected during normal business hours and employees, visitors and commercial vehicle drivers are invited to answer a few brief travel-related questions at some sites. Key survey results used for modeling purposes include trip attraction rates by trip purpose and estimates of non-resident travel.

Commercial Vehicle Travel Surveys

Commercial truck traveling on a busy freeway. The purpose of Commercial Vehicle Travel Surveys is to gather information about the amount and characteristics of commercial vehicle travel in an urban area. Two main types of information are collected: data on commercial vehicles and commercial vehicle trips. Details about commercial vehicles include datapoints such as year, make, model, fuel type, class and configuration. The trip data includes information such as stops made, cargo transported or service performed, as well as arrival and departure times. Any local businesses, public agencies, or individuals that operate commercial vehicles in the course of their daily business have a chance of being invited to participate in this type of survey. Trips made by the establishment’s commercial vehicles may be recorded in a variety of ways, including smartphone app, the internet, hardcopy log or verbally over the phone. Key survey results used for modeling purposes include estimates of internal commercial vehicle trips, trip-length frequency distributions for commercial vehicles, and cargo transport data.

External Travel Studies

Aerial view of an elevated highway interchange. The purpose of conducting External Travel Studies is to obtain information about vehicle trips into, out of, and through an urban area. It is important to capture this external travel as it contributes to local area traffic but is not otherwise accounted for. Trips by commuters driving into or out of the study region for work or truckers traveling completely through the area without stopping are examples of these types of trips. External travel information is obtained through a variety of unobtrusive means. These include crowd-sourced GPS data from smartphone apps and vehicle navigation systems (with owner’s permission), and the purchase of anonymized cellular data that reflect the movement of electronic devices through a study area’s perimeter access points. The resulting information is processed, compared to traditional vehicle classification (tube) counts, and expanded to generate model estimates of the total amount of external travel for the area. Other key modeling inputs include estimates of the percent of external-local and through trips, non-commercial and commercial trips, non-resident travel, and trip-length frequency distributions for external trips.

For More Information

Reach out to Ed Hard or Byron Chigoy to learn more about how TTI can help your organization prepare for, collect or analyze travel survey and/or passive travel data.

Ed Hard
(979) 317-2592
[email protected]


Byron Chigoy
(828) 675-5304
[email protected]