Using GPS for Measuring Household Travel in Private Vehicles
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Using GPS for Measuring Household Travel in Private Vehicles

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    Personal travel and how it changes is of continuing concern to transportation planners and policy makers. Information about daily travel patterns is generally captured using self-reported information using a written diary and telephone retrieval (or mail-back of diary forms). Problems with these self-reported methods include lack of reporting for short trips, poor data quality on travel start and end times, total trip times, and destination locations. Also, the burden on the respondent may be 20 minutes per person for reporting of one-day (24 hours) of travel, and more than 60 minutes per household using telephone retrieval methods. Nearly 90 percent of person trips in the U.S. are made in a private vehicle. This project combined Global Positioning Satellite (GPS) and Geographic Information Systems (GIS) technology with small hand-held computers (Personal Digital Assistants -PDAs) to capture vehicle-based, daily travel information. The resulting device is a small, user-friendly, mailable unit designed to capture variables that would be entered by the vehicle driver using a touch sensitive menu, such as trip purpose and vehicle occupancy, and to capture automatically-recorded variables such as date, start time, end time, and latitude and longitude at frequent intervals. In addition, respondents were mailed an instructional training video to assist with installation and use of the equipment. Finally, after mail-back return of the units, the data are processed to include variables such as travel speed by road classification, trip distance, and trip time. The unit allows for collection of travel data over several days to avoid potential short-term, survey-induced travel behavior changes. By combining self-reported information with GPS-recorded information, this technology has the potential for both improving the quality of data on travel behavior and reducing respondent burden for reporting this behavior.
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