Synthesis of Information Related to Transit Practices. Topic SH-18. Public Transit Rider Origin-Destination Survey Methods and Technologies

Traditional Origin-Destination (O-D) data for transit riders provide critical information for planners seeking to make informed decisions about changes to transit services. Capturing the exact points of origin and destination for a trip as well as the trip path and rider characteristics gives planners the data they need to understand the true trip-making habits of their riders. As a result, agencies can better target improvements to existing services. O-D surveys are often conducted using paper-based survey forms handed out to riders, or more recently with tablets that survey administrators use to interview riders. Recent advances in technology and methodology may address the myriad challenges of traditional survey methods. However, these emerging technologies may pose new challenges. The purpose of this synthesis is to evaluate the opportunities and challenges of current and emerging methods of rider data collection. Information to be gathered will include (not an exhaustive list): (1) What are the purposes of doing a survey? Are different surveys used for different purposes (for example Title VI fare and equity analysis, etc)? How do these considerations influence the methodology used? (2) What are the current methods to collect boarding/alighting and – more importantly – origin-destination information (i.e., at the “whole trip” level)? With new technology, particularly in terms of the various locational/spatial capabilities of mobile technology, are there new methods of gathering origin-destination (and trip-linking) data that do not rely on surveys? (3) If origin-destination information is collected using emerging technologies rather than paper surveys, what are the methods for collecting other necessary information from passengers, such as Title VI information and other preference information that can be used to make planning decisions? How do we combine information gathered from different sources? (4) Are there methods to harness the “big data” being collected by both transit service operators and telecommunications service providers (i.e., anonymous data that aren’t linked to a specific person) that can better inform the data expansion, transit service planning process and other uses? When data are gathered by harnessing rider’s personal devices, what are the proven and emerging methods to transform the sample data into a robust representation of the total ridership? What are the pros and cons of using these data? (5) When origin-destination and other information is gathered by the voluntary participation of riders through their personal devices (opt-in), what are the proven and emerging methods to transform this into a robust sample of the total ridership, taking account of factors such the population segments who have suitable personal devices. Are there differences between those who will/can participate in such surveys and those who do not? (6) What are the differences in data quality between self-administered (paper, tablet, web-based, hybrid) and interviewer-administered surveys? (7) What new skills and associated training are required for consultants (including surveyors) and agencies’ staff of various sizes to prepare for and utilize these new tools, methods, and data sets? What type of coordination needs to occur within, between and among agencies regarding survey administration? (8) Several transit agencies have benefited from third-party crowd-sourcing applications to gather travel demand and feedback data from customers. Using open source tools that already exist, how can transit agencies leverage public participation to supplement and replace traditional survey methods? What are the pros and cons of using these applications? Information will be gathered by a literature review, including the international perspective (e.g. agency reports, peer reviewed journal articles, web articles), and a survey of transit agencies and/or metropolitan planning organizations (MPOs) (diverse in terms of size, geography, ridership level and consultant contracted), and on-board survey contractors. The report should include five case examples of transit agencies that exhibit innovative practices in O-D data collection techniques, tools, and/or analysis. The synthesis will gather information on the state-of-the-practice, emphasizing lessons learned, challenges, and needs for future research.


  • English


  • Status: Active
  • Funding: $45000
  • Contract Numbers:

    Project J-07, Topic SH-18

  • Sponsor Organizations:

    Transit Cooperative Research Program

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

    Federal Transit Administration

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

    Garcia-Colberg, Mariela

  • Performing Organizations:

    FourSquare Integrated Transportation Planning

    Rockville, MD  United States 
  • Principal Investigators:

    Zalewski, Andrew

  • Start Date: 20170920
  • Expected Completion Date: 0
  • Actual Completion Date: 0
  • Source Data: RiP Project 41625

Subject/Index Terms

Filing Info

  • Accession Number: 01634932
  • Record Type: Research project
  • Source Agency: Transportation Research Board
  • Contract Numbers: Project J-07, Topic SH-18
  • Files: TRB, RiP
  • Created Date: May 18 2017 1:01AM