Texas High Speed Passenger Rail Survey Finding and Results
Researchers at the Texas A&M Transportation Institute (TTI) provided support and assistance to educate decision makers, stakeholders and interested groups regarding inter-city passenger rail (IPR) in Texas. More specifically, the goals were to (1) gather Texans’ opinions regarding currently available transportation options and services, and (2) develop a better understanding of Texans’ perceptions about rail projects. This statewide survey employed a geographically stratified sampling plan of Texas residents using a list-assisted, address-based sampling frame. Respondents had the option of providing their responses via mail, web or phone.
Some key estimates obtained in the survey include the following:
- 95 percent of Texans who had used IPR internationally were either “satisfied” or “very satisfied” with their IPR experience. 79 percent of domestic users were either “satisfied” or “very satisfied” with their IPR experience.
- Familiarity with various IPR projects in the US is low, with only 24 percent being at least “somewhat familiar” with the California High Speed Rail Project.
- 72 percent of Texans said they would potentially use IPR in Texas.
- “Passenger Ticket Fees” and “Public Private Partnerships” were the two most often mentioned funding mechanisms when Texans were asked how they think IPR in Texas should be funded.
Policy Center – Statewide Assessment of Public Opinion on Transportation
In an effort to remain informed of public opinion regarding transportation issues in Texas, TTI is will conduct a longitudinal tracking survey of Texans, the design of which will facilitate a means to, not only, quantify public opinion of Texans (statewide), but also track the manner in which these attitudes change over time and affect their behavior. The survey will also provide a good opportunity to ask questions about specific projects, public opinion about which transportation professionals may find useful. The later could be accomplished via a survey “add-ons”…..a battery of questions asked of respondents residing in geographies of interest.
Policy Center – Case Studies in Transportation Funding
There is general agreement across the political spectrum that the era of U.S. reliance on the current gas tax as a major funding mechanism for highway maintenance and construction is coming to an end. A seemingly obvious fix is to simply increase the gas tax, thus securing the additional finances necessary for mobility investment. While this may provide short term relief, economists warn that this is an ineffective long term solution due to federally mandated fuel efficiency requirements. Furthermore, increased taxation has not historically been popular with the public, nor those wanting to secure their vote.
With a state excise fuel tax that has remained at twenty cents per gallon for twenty years, Texas is dealing with its own funding issues. Estimated at $4B, the projected shortfall has resulted in a critical analysis of the current system to determine what can be done to provide both short and long term solutions. The purpose of this research is to summarize what other states have done to generate additional revenue for transportation funding and assess if how Texas can learn from these case studies.
Review of Oregon Department of Transportation Household Travel Surveys
The Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) recently completed a series of regional household travel surveys to support current travel demand models and assist with the creation of a new activity-based model. ODOT contracted with TTI to review their survey data and documentation and propose and implement a pragmatic process for weighting and expanding this dataset to support modeling at both the regional and statewide level. This project built upon the weighting and expansion methodology implemented by TTI on behalf of the Denver Regional Council of Governments (DRCOG). The expected project completion date is August 2013.
Household Travel Survey Symposium
On November 8-9, 2012, a group of approximately 75 academic, public and private sector household travel survey professionals met in Dallas, Texas, for the Household Travel Survey Symposium: Moving from Tradition to Innovation. The event, presented by TTI and the Southwest Region University Transportation Center (SWUTC), provided a venue for in depth discussions regarding current state of the practice for household travel survey research, what household travel surveys could/should look like in the future, and what can or needs to be accomplished to bridge this gap. Following a brief but meaningful opening session, the one and a half day symposium launched into seven topical discussion groups, including (1) survey methods, (2) sample and hard to reach populations, (3) data uses and data needs, (4) surveys of the future, (5) research priorities and how to fund them, (6) writing effective RFPs, and (7) funding surveys now and in the future.
At the conclusion of the symposium a list of research priorities was drafted, which included the following:
- Research how to utilize credit card databases for augmenting household travel survey efforts.
- Research how to prompt respondents to provide information on future travel, then compare to actual travel. Where there are deviations, ask the respondents to explain why they deviated.
- Research the utility of mining social media data (Facebook, Twitter, etc.) for travel and behavior purposes.
- Research how to motivate various groups to participate in a survey.
- Research how (or if) the emerging technologies used for data collection are biasing the data.
- Conduct a study that evaluates how new technology driven methods compare to tried and true methods (example: social media based sampling. Is it an effective alternative?).
- Research how to accurately and efficiently post process of the vast quantity of data technology may allow us to collect.
- Research how data from different levels of government can be “stacked” to create an end product that is greater than its individual parts (example: NHTS data combined with state and local data).
- Research how to identify the utility of alternative sampling units (example person vs. household).
- Research how to improve the imputation process.
- Research how to improve the respondent experience.
Mobility Investment Priorities Project
This project, directed by the 82nd Texas Legislature, instructs TTI to serve as a facilitator and coordinator of studies conducted by regional entities to assure that the best congestion and travel demand management principles are applied to the 50 most congested roadway segments in the state. A major provision of the work is to ensure open and transparent public participation is part of the process in determining solutions. Researchers leading this effort have developed best practices for public engagement and provide support to the entities engaging in market research or public opinion research.
- Establishing Mobility Investment Priorities Under TxDOT Rider 42: Public Engagement Report – May 2012
- Establishing Mobility Investment Priorities Under TxDOT Rider 42: Public Engagement Activities Update – May 2013
Managing the Travel Demand Model Process: Developing MPO Institutional Capacity
This project work consisted of researching the current state of cooperation and coordination between the state departments of transportation and metropolitan planning organizations (MPO) as it relates to development of the regional travel demand model. This involved interviewing personnel from both agencies and the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA). This information was used to develop a framework that will be used to develop tools to increase institutional capacity. The results were developed into a training course that will be used to inform and educate.
Public Outreach for the Interstate 35 (I-35) Corridor
As part of a larger effort to develop a comprehensive approach to meet the needs of the I-35 statewide now and into the future, a series of listening sessions and focus groups were held with the business community and the general public. TTI researchers leading this effort organized and facilitated five listening sessions with the business community throughout the corridor, and conducted 14 focus groups with the general public.
- Interstate 35 Citizens’ Advisory Committee Public Outreach: Focus Group Results
- Interstate 35 Citizens’ Advisory Committee Public Outreach: Business Listening Session Results
Creation of a Customer Relations Development System
TTI is a subcontractor to AEM Corporation on this effort to define and develop a customer relations system for the Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT). The effort includes design and development of a survey of Ohio residents and the conduct of three focus groups. This public opinion research will be used to design a system that meets the needs of the ODOT and the residents of Ohio.
Methods to Maximize Toll Revenues
TTI was directed by the Texas Legislature to conduct an analysis that identifies strategies to maximize toll revenues collected on TxDOT-operated toll roads. The task sought public opinion research to understand the public’s use of toll roads. This task also included outreach to the trucking community. TTI researchers conducted several interviews with commercial truckers, trucking and logistics companies and freight haulers.
Oak Hill Parkway Virtual Open House
The traditional methods of public engagement will always be an important part of the planning process, but discovering the effectiveness of emerging technologies in order to develop new best practices for public engagement is the charge of the future. The Oak Hill Parkway project in Austin, Texas, provided a unique opportunity to test a new and innovative method to engage the public. This pilot project tested the effectiveness of recreating a traditional open house in a virtual setting in order to provide additional opportunities for engagement and to understand the role emerging technology will play in the engagement process. The virtual open house also included two sessions of real-time chat opportunities with project representatives.
Transportation and Tourism
This project involved facilitation of the 2012 Texas Transit Conference and meeting with representatives of the Texas Department of Transportation and BikeTexas, recording the role of alternative transportation in the Texas tourism industry. Review of the literature identified definitions and economic impacts of active transportation on tourism, and methods to integrate findings into the planning process. The geographic scope was statewide, highlighting good practices in San Antonio, Padre Island and Corpus Christi. TTI integrated the results of these sessions, which identify research topics, outreach activities, and possible demonstrations or pilot projects that could be pursued to maximize the benefits of transit, bicycling, and walking to enhance tourism in the state.
Blanco County Transportation and Economic Development Plan
Meeting the public engagement needs of a rural population poses specific challenges, such as lack of Internet access, citizen experience with planning processes, and potential distrust of outsiders. TTI worked with the Capital Area Council of Governments (CAPCOG) and the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) to find public engagement solutions to the challenges facing development of a new plan in a rural Texas county. Early in the planning process, researchers developed a Community Involvement Strategy, recommending a local advisory committee, cohesive material branding and website, local presentations, press releases and leveraged social media, and a questionnaire disseminated at public meetings, local libraries and businesses, in addition to online. Results to date are strong, with over 1 percent of the county’s population completing a questionnaire. Qualitative analysis will be used to integrate public engagement results into guidance for development of the plan, led by CAPCOG and Blanco County. The plan website is maintained by TTI.