In 2013, the North Central Texas Council of Governments (NCTCOG) evaluated the capabilities of different available technologies in collecting person trip data. The goal of the project was to identify whether they can efficiently and effectively reduce the burden on household travel survey respondents and increase the data collection accuracy.
The study included using various technologies in a small-scale data collection in a manner that can be implemented in a larger scale household survey. A portable GPS logger, smart phone application, and cell phone triangulation were selected for this project. The data collection of all three technologies was conducted on one group of participants, where each person was asked to carry the technologies of their choice for a week-long survey period and fill out a paper travel diary on the first day.
Once the data collection was complete, the consultants processed the data collected through their technologies to develop a list of visited locations and times. NCTCOG compared results from each technology against the locations and times collected from the travel diaries, allowing a time difference of up to 15 minutes and distance difference of up to 0.25 miles. The results of this analysis were 81% matches for the GPS Logger, 66% for the smart phone application, and 16% for the triangulation technology; reasons for non-matches were investigated. Travel diary locations were reviewed finding that 63% matched partipant-identified habitual locations. NCTCOG also investigated if the technologies found valid additional stops that were not noted in the travel diary. 37% of the 91 additional stops found by the GPS logger and 24% of the 70 additional stops found by the smart phone application were determined to be new valid stops.
In a follow-up survey, participants were asked to specify which formats they would be willing to use in the future, 48% specified travel diary, 68% picked GPS logger, 51% specified smart phone application, and 55% listed cell phone triangulation. With willing participants, panelist habitual location information, and continued improvements in location-data algorithms, use of GPS technologies can provide accurate results and should be considered as a viable tool for household surveys.