New Technology

While TUTI concentrates on questionnaire-based travel surveys, as the only way to get the type of detail required from travellers, they are also keen to adopt new technologies where appropriate. Three new technologies in particular that are applicable to travel surveys of various types are GPS (Global Positioning Systems), mobile computing (such as iPads) and online surveys.

GPS Surveys

Unlike some, TUTI does not see GPS surveys as a replacement for questionnaire-based surveys. While GPS is excellent at recording time and place information (after sufficient satellite signals have been received and barring signal drop-outs under certain conditions), it is less well equipped for recording many of the other variables required from urban travel surveys (such as trip purpose and destination type). Nonetheless, GPS is excellent for some types of surveys.

Back in the dim distant past (1998), TUTI outlined a GPS-based system for recording freight movements (FACTS - Freights Activity and Commercial Travel Survey) that had been developed in the predecessor organisation (the Transport Research Centre). Many of the components of this system have now been outdated, but the potential was seen even then.

In 2003, in a project for the Victorian Department of Infrastructure, TUTI demonstrated the value of using GPS in public transport patronage surveys, with handheld GPS and data logger units being used to record passenger boardings and alighting along bus routes. These GPS records were then matched with ticket validation records from the same service, which enabled the ticket valuation records to be "position-stamped", thus enabling time-based origin-destination matrices to be estimated. 

In 2007, TUTI (in conjunction with the Dr Peter Stopher) ran a pilot study to compare results obtained from the VISTA07 travel survey with GPS data obtained from a sample of VISTA07 households. The results were mixed, with difficulty in actually matching the travel recorded by the two methods on numerous occasions. Where it was clear that the data pertained to the same person on the same day, the GPS picked up travel that had been missed by the diary survey, while the diary survey picked up about the same quantity of travel missed by the GPS. It was concluded that the status of GPS technology at that time did not facilitate the collection of a complete record of urban travel.

Since that time, however, the sophistication and availability of GPS systems has changed enormously, with most mobile phones now supporting some form of GPS, and with the standard satellite-based GPS systems backed up by other systems such a mobile phone tower triangulation and wifi station triangulation, to enable quasi-GPS positions to be obtained even when out of sight of GPS satellites. Mobile GPS systems would appear to have great potential for supporting households travel surveys in the coming years as the technology (hardware and software) develops further.

iPad Applications

The development of mobile computing platforms in the past few years has been astounding. With the introduction of the iPhone and other phone platforms such as various Android models, and then the re-birth of tablet computing with the iPad, the potential for using such systems in the field for travel surveys has increased enormously. Examples of such uses include the application of iPad technology to survey field operations, and to face-to-face interview situations.

The TUTI survey methodology used in a large number of surveys has to date been highly "pen and paper" oriented in the field. Paper field sheets have been produced and taken into the field by field staff. They have then completed these field sheets manually, then brought them back to the survey office, where the contents are entered into spreadsheets, before being imported into the HotSpot program to generate the next batch of paper sheets to go back out into the field.

A new TUTI survey methodology is now being developed which takes advantage of the power of iPads to automate many of the processes and the production of field work materials and the conduct of the field operations. The new iPad procedures have three major advantages:

 - they eliminate the production of paper field sheets and maps 

 - they eliminate the manual transcription of the field sheet outputs into spreadsheets before import into HotSpot

 - the facilitate realtime error checking of the field sheet data in the field, this improving data quality

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© The Urban Transport Institute 2011