Developing a Guidebook on Use and Application of Demographic Data for Building Community Profiles

Accurate and comprehensive demographic data is essential to understand the characteristics, needs, and trends of communities and enable effective decision-making in various fields, including transportation planning, infrastructure development, and public services. Current demographic inputs to planning tools have raised several questions about the accuracy and usefulness of some data and datasets. These include uncertainties around the 2020 Census and use of US Census data in general; COVID-19 related changes to travel patterns; generational differences in travel needs and desires; and migration patterns. There are challenges and knowledge gaps in utilizing demographic data, not limited to only US Census data, to build community profiles. Further, there is a lack of comprehensive guidance and resources on identifying and accessing relevant demographic data sources well beyond the US Census data. Newer data sources can be challenging to integrate and analyze due to differences in formats, data quality, and privacy concerns. Transportation planners need practical guidelines on using different demographic data sources to inform planning decisions. Agencies have a duty to build community profiles that consider equity and social justice dimensions. Development in demographic data techniques could support agencies in identifying disparities in access to transportation, services, and opportunities. Greater use of demographic data provides numerous benefits, but also raises privacy concerns and requires adherence to ethical standards. Safeguarding individual privacy and ensuring ethical use of demographic data are paramount as this field develops. The objective of this research is to develop a guide that offers transportation planners, policymakers, and researchers a guide on the use and application of demographic data for building community profiles to improve practices around travel and demand forecasting. The guide will provide practical methodologies, tools, and case studies, enabling more accurate, insightful, and equitable community profiling for effective decision-making in transportation planning and related fields. The guide would provide the following information to transportation planners, policymakers, and researchers: (1) data availability and accessibility, (2) travel patterns, (3) data integration and analysis, (4) application of demographic data in transportation planning, (5) community engagement, (6) consideration of equity and social justice; and (7) privacy and data ethics.


  • English


  • Status: Proposed
  • Funding: $425000
  • Contract Numbers:

    Project 08-195

  • Sponsor Organizations:

    National Cooperative Highway Research Program

    Transportation Research Board
    500 Fifth Street, NW
    Washington, DC  United States  20001

    American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO)

    444 North Capitol Street, NW
    Washington, DC  United States  20001

    Federal Highway Administration

    1200 New Jersey Avenue, SE
    Washington, DC  United States  20590
  • Project Managers:

    Wadsworth, Trey

  • Start Date: 20240610
  • Expected Completion Date: 0
  • Actual Completion Date: 0

Subject/Index Terms

Filing Info

  • Accession Number: 01919279
  • Record Type: Research project
  • Source Agency: Transportation Research Board
  • Contract Numbers: Project 08-195
  • Files: TRB, RIP
  • Created Date: May 21 2024 8:26PM