April 10, 2015


Moving Towards Better Measurement and Modeling of Long Distance Travel


1:40 p.m. – 3:00 p.m.


1605 Tilia, Room 1103, West Village


The majority of transportation planning research and data collection focuses on daily activity patterns.  Consequently, non-routine long-distance activity patterns (describing the bulk of tourism and some types of business and leisure travel) are often treated as aggregate and “external” to forecasting models. There were an estimated 1.3 billion long-distance trips in the United States in 2001, a 155% increase from 1977.  In 1995, the date of the last dedicated national survey, long-distance trips were estimated to account for 25% of all person-miles of travel.  Without data and models for long distance trips it becomes difficult to make reliable decisions associated with economic development and regional infrastructure improvements.  Recent increased interest in interregional rail, megaregion air quality, carbon emissions in the transportation sector and interstate highway maintenance has renewed focus on long-distance trips, many of which are also overnight trips.

The Longitudinal Study of Overnight Travel (LSOT) was conducted monthly between February 2013 and February 2014 by Resource Systems Group, Inc. (RSG) using an online survey instrument developed by Aultman-Hall and LaMondia at the University of Vermont and Auburn University.  A total of 628 of the initial 1,220 participants, including many from CalTrans and California-based University Transportation Centers, completed the panel that collected data on overnight trip planning, trip tour attributes and geocoded overnight stops.

This seminar summarizes the who, what, where, and when of long distance travel observed in the unique sample in order to move towards a long distance tour-based approach to data collection and modeling that more fully incorporates the complexity of spatial patterns and purpose, including mixed purposes.   The seminar will also critically assesses what it will take to collect long distance travel data needed for the policy questions facing the national and global transportation sector.  The LSOT provides many insights related to survey design that stimulate a wider discussion about how to collect overnight travel data in a way that is understandable by respondents and useful for planning. The complexity of factors influencing overnight travel behavior and the one-year plus study time frame suggest that, while passive data collection from cell phones and other devices may be used to observe spatial patterns of travel, surveys will still be needed to capture complementary details about the planning processes, motivations, trip details, and demographics.

Biographical Sketch

Dr. Aultman-Hall’s technical research focuses on collection of innovative travel data to study tailpipe emissions, bicycling, long distance travel and rural communities.  Her policy research topics include safety, accessibility, and resiliency especially as it relates to planning for climate adaptation.  Dr. Aultman-Hall is active with the Transportation Research Board including recently starting a new committee on inter-city travel.

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