Are We There Yet? FHWA’s National Household Travel Survey has the Answer
A major part of the Department’s mission is identifying the ever-changing transportation needs across the nation. A solution that provides for seamless transit in California wouldn't necessarily work for travelers in Massachusetts. With this in mind, FHWA launched the 2016 National Household Travel Survey - the first of its kind since 2009. A few days ago, the agency mailed the first of what will be 130,000 surveys to randomly selected households across the nation beginning a year-long data collection effort that will help us better understand the needs of America’s traveling public.
The four-page survey asks 16 basic questions whose answers will assist transportation planners and policy makers who need comprehensive data on travel and transportation patterns in the United States. An additional round of questions will ask households to record their typical days’ travel and enter it online on a special web page designed to protect their identities. The first part of the survey only takes a few minutes, and the second averages about 13 minutes to complete. The time needed for the survey is small but the value to me and other federal transportation officials is large.
Since its creation in 1969, the NHTS has been a valued part of the FHWA’s ongoing mission to better understand the nation’s changing transportation needs. The agency compiles annual data, such as how many people have driver’s licenses, and how many licensed vehicles there are. However, this data doesn’t adequately explain how the American traveling public uses the road system.
The NHTS helps us to sufficiently understand and plan for the future of U.S. roads by understanding how and why people are using them. It will also help us to answer to questions like, how many people are in the typical car on a typical day? Are people driving as much for work as they once did? Or less? Are people riding bikes or using mass transit options to get to work? Are people “trip-chaining,” which is making multiple stops on one trip – say, stopping at the grocery store and doing errands on the way home from work instead of making two separate trips? With information like this, transportation planners nationwide are better able to anticipate the ever-evolving needs of America’s traveling public.
So, check your mailbox! You are an essential part of the planning process for the future of America’s transportation network. The few minutes it will take you to complete the NHTS will help us for years to come.