University City

Survey seeks how people travel

Every 10 years, a household travel survey is conducted in the Charlotte region as part of the federally mandated transportation planning process, to analyze and improve transportation.

Beginning at the end of November and running through April 2012, ETC Institute, the company hired to conduct the survey, will be randomly selecting 4,000 households from 11 area counties to participate in the survey, based on location, household income and size: Cabarrus, Cleveland, Gaston, Iredell, Lincoln, Mecklenburg, Rowan, Stanly and Union in North Carolina and Lancaster and York in South Carolina.

"It's really a once-in-a-decade opportunity for citizens to help provide some important information," said Anna Gallup, CDOT senior transportation planner and no relation to the founder of the polling organization Gallup Inc. "It gives planners good information so that we can provide them with the best transportation service possible."

Federal money will pay most of the survey's $725,000 cost. The city of Charlotte financed less than 1 percent of the cost, about $7,712.

The survey is one of many data collection efforts being completed along with the 2010 Census, Gallup explained. It's based on how the population is distributed in various zones.

"The employment in those zones, the number of students that might be attending those schools in those zones, gives us an indication of who's making those trips, how often they are making those trips, and the number of reasons behind their trips," she said.

This survey will provide information to planners and policymakers about travel behavior, including how, when and where people in the region go.

When complete, the information will be used to update the region's travel demand model. The U.S. Department of Transportation requires that model to improve transportation in the area, Gallup said in an email.

A regional team of transportation modelers from the Charlotte and N.C. departments of transportation will be responsible for analyzing the data and for making sure the Metrolina Regional Travel Demand Model is kept up to date.

The data will be analyzed for the next long-range transportation plan, Gallup said.

The goal is to get a good, statistically valid sample from all possible household sizes and income levels, so that everyone is well represented, Gallup said.

According to the media release, each household participating in this survey is required to keep a travel diary for one day. In that diary they must record, for each trip taken, the destination, travel time, type of transportation taken and number of occupants in the vehicle.

"We ... did the first regional survey back in early 2000 and used that information every day in the planning that is done," said Gallup.

Planners look at the data to determine what travel behaviors have changed over time. That helps them decide what needs to be improved.

"I'm hoping this will be a good opportunity to inform the public and make them aware of what is going on and how important it is to have their participation," said Gallup.