Tools and Methods for a Transportation Household Survey

By Trepanier, Martin; Chapleau, Robert et al. | URISA Journal, January 2008 | Go to article overview
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Tools and Methods for a Transportation Household Survey

Trepanier, Martin, Chapleau, Robert, Morency, Catherine, URISA Journal


Large household surveys always have presented a methodological challenge for transportation planners and authorities. Conducting a survey of more than 70,000 households is not a simple task because of the sample size and the complexity of the survey itself. Every planner knows that transportation data are strongly related to the spatial elements of a territory and to the transportation network (roads and public transit), and that the survey tool must take these specificities into account. Today, even though intelligent transportation systems (ITSs) have provided new ways to collect data, large transportation surveys still are needed. Data collected from these operations now are well integrated in the fields of transportation planning, finance, and management.

This paper presents the information technologies that were used for the 2003 Greater Montreal Area Household Survey (Quebec, Canada). It also emphasizes the technological background and architectures that were required to yield the best results possible from the survey. Following a recounting of the history of the household survey in the Montreal area, the totally disaggregate approach and transportation object-oriented modeling, two key elements that helped support and develop the 2003 tools, are presented in the background section. The third part of the paper, "Survey Information System Framework," describes the methodology that was used to prepare and synchronize the various software programs and databases. The "Implementation" section is aimed at demonstrating the functions of the software that was used for the survey. The conclusion reports some findings on the 2003 experience in Montreal.


In the past, travel surveys were conducted mainly by mail or face-to-face interviews. They basically provided data for the development of aggregated travel forecasting models. Richardson et al. (1995) propose a thorough description of classical Survey Methods for Transport planning. With the advent of new technologies, combining spatial information systems and computation capacities, travel surveys have become an integral part of the continuing transportation planning process and assist many types of transportation studies.

In the Transportation Research Board Millennium Paper of the Committee on Travel Surveys Methods, Griffiths et al. (2000) identify future directions for travel survey methods:

* The improvement of the quality standards of travel surveys through full and honest documentation of the survey process. The need to document all stages of the survey process also appears as the most overriding conclusion of a conference held in 1997 on raising the standards of travel surveys (Richardson 2002).

* The use of mixed-mode survey designs to meet the data needs of the surveyor in ways that create the least burden and the greatest flexibility for the respondents. The concept of common cognitive space between an interviewer and a respondent was outlined by Brog (2000). The purpose of survey tools is to maximize this common space to facilitate the exchange of information between the two agents and to lessen the respondent burden.

* A move toward a more continuous survey to provide more timely data in an economical manner, which also would develop and preserve technical and managerial skills in the conduct of complex surveys.

* The judicious use of new technologies to augment existing survey techniques.

In this regard, computer-assisted telephone interviewing (CATI) is one of the main fields of development regarding travel surveys. It allows interviewers to administer a survey questionnaire via telephone and capture responses electronically. CATI "employs interactive computing systems to assist interviewers and their supervisors in performing the basic data-collection tasks of telephone interview surveys" (Nicholls II 1988).

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