TPB News

In-Depth Surveys Provide New Understanding of Neighborhood-Level Travel Patterns in Region

May 28, 2012

In-depth surveys of household travel behavior conducted by the Transportation Planning Board in ten strategically-chosen areas around the Washington region will help planners and local officials better understand neighborhood-level travel patterns in ways that no other existing survey can. The results will inform efforts by local jurisdictions to plan for future growth and to identify strategies for meeting future transportation needs.


List of Geographically-Focused Household Travel Survey Study Areas



The results of the TPB's first phase of Geographically-Focused Household Travel Surveys, which were conducted in spring 2010 and fall 2011, will supplement the findings of a similar but less concentrated survey of the entire region conducted by the TPB in 2007 and 2008.

Both surveys asked respondents to complete travel diaries detailing the origin and destination, travel mode, travel time, and trip purpose for every trip they made in a given day. The trip details were combined with demographic information to paint a picture of the typical travel patterns of people living in the study areas.

All of the focused survey areas were chosen for a variety of reasons by officials from the local jurisdictions in which the surveys took place. Six of the survey areas, which are described below, were chosen for the purposes of better understanding the relationship between development patterns and travel behavior or to learn more about how the availability of various transportation facilities interact with one another in shaping daily travel patterns.

In three of the six areas -- the 14th Street NW/Logan Circle area in the District of Columbia, the Route 1 corridor in Crystal City, and the Shirlington area in Arlington County -- higher-density development, a mix of residential, retail, and commercial land uses, and proximity to various forms of public transit are thought to have had an impact on how people get around.

In the urban, mixed-use environment of the 14th Street NW/Logan Circle area in the District of Columbia, nearly 44% of trips made by local residents to and from work each day were found to be made on foot or by bicycle, compared to just 25% of trips made by car and more than ten times the regional average.

In the Route 1 corridor in Crystal City, which is served by two Metrorail stations, 21% of all weekday trips and 53% of all commute trips are made by transit, compared to regional averages of 6% and 18%, respectively. In the Shirlington area, where efforts have been made to orient development near express bus routes and a major bus terminal, the survey found that 13% of all weekday trips and 34% of all commute trips are made by transit. Although the share of trips made by transit in Shirlington is lower than in Crystal City, both the share of all weekday trips and the share of commute trips are approximately twice the regional average.

A fourth survey area, around the White Flint Metrorail station in Montgomery County, was chosen by local officials because more intensive, high-density residential redevelopment is being planned in areas that have already begun to see some higher-density development. Local residents are concerned about the traffic impacts of the planned development, so officials wanted to survey the area to establish a baseline condition that can be used to measure the traffic impact of the new development as it is phased in over time.

The final two survey areas -- Woodbridge, Virginia, and Frederick, Maryland -- were chosen so that planners there could better assess the impact that access to a variety of transportation options had on peoples' decisions about what modes of travel to take.

The Woodbridge area was selected by Prince William County planners because of its proximity to the Virginia Railway Express (VRE) commuter rail line and high-occupancy vehicle (HOV) lanes on I-95. The survey found that 13% of trips to or from work each day by people living in the study area were in carpools, compared to the regional average of 8%. Approximately 8% of trips were found to be made by transit, which is less than the regional average of 18% but higher than many other suburban areas.

In Frederick, Maryland, planners wanted to see whether the city's historic downtown -- with a mix of residential and commercial land uses and a gridded street system -- encouraged more daily travel by biking and walking compared to newer suburban residential subdivisions and outer suburban area that have street networks that are less well-connected. The results of the survey show a greater proportion of daily travel by walking and biking than the average for the region -- 11.9% compared to 9.6% -- and a significantly higher proportion than found in typical suburban neighborhoods.

The geographically-focused surveys in all of the study areas will provide planners with more up-to-date and detailed travel behavior information than is available from the US Census Bureau or the TPB's 2007/2008 regional survey, which were designed to provide reliable data for larger geographic areas. Future phases of the geographicallly-focused survey in new locations will continue to help planners and officials better understand neighborhood-level travel patterns in the region.

* * *

Stay tuned: Next week, "TPB Weekly Report" will focus on the remaining four study areas in the first phase of surveys: the Columbia Pike corridor in Arlington County, Virginia; Reston, Virginia; the University Boulevard corridor in Maryland; and, the area around the Largo Metrorail station in Prince George's County, Maryland. It will also provide information about the location of additional phases of focused surveys that are currently underway or planned for the near future.

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