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TMIP Fiscal Years 2010-2011 Report

FHWA-HEP-12-006

Helping Agencies Improve Their Planning Analysis Techniques

Table of Contents

Introduction

The challenges confronting professionals in travel modeling have never been greater. Funding at the Metropolitan Planning Organization level is, like much public-sector funding, ever more tightly constrained. At the same time, the need for travel modeling as both a planning tool and a tool to evaluate environmental implications of large public investment projects is only increasing. Indeed, questions being asked by decision-makers have advanced beyond comparing the advantages of added-capacity projects to span such topics as evaluating environmental and societal impacts of projects and the effects of land use. Additional questions that models are asked to address include providing input for both high-level policy and detail-level operational decisions, testing what-if scenarios, and conducting sensitivity analyses. At the same time that the questions being asked are changing, so are factors that influence travel demand in the United States: the economic cycle, gas price changes, alternative fuel initiatives, and constantly evolving demographics are several examples.

MISSION

Support and empower planning agencies, through leadership, innovation and support of travel analysis improvements, to better meet current and future mobility, environmental, safety and security goals.

Earlier in 2007, the Transportation Research Board released Special Report 288, Metropolitan Travel Forecasting: Current Practice and Future Direction (SR 288), which assessed the state of practice in travel demand forecasting and identified shortcomings, obstacles, and actions needed to improve it. Focused on travel demand modeling activities by Metropolitan Planning Organizations (MPOs), the report included a recommendation that the Federal Government provide leadership and resources for travel demand model development and implementation, and it validated the Travel Model Improvement Program (TMIP) as "an appropriate mechanism for advancing [SR 288] recommendations." Moreover, SR 288 also recommended additional funding for TMIP to increase these activities.

More recently, in September 2009, the United States Government Accountability Office (GAO) released a report called Metropolitan Planning Organizations: Options Exist to Enhance Transportation Planning Capacity and Federal Oversight. This report reiterated the need for expanding Federal investment in modeling and data gathering to better support the technical capability and travel forecasting reliability of MPOs. MPOs across the Nation have varying needs and varying resources and technical capabilities to meet those needs. The GAO report cites funding, staffing, authority, and technical capacity as the biggest challenges confronting MPOs.

It is within this challenging environment that TMIP operates, working to provide a professional forum for education, debate, and friendly challenges among professionals to keep improving the travel models to meet these changing needs. This report covers the period from October 1, 2009, to September 30, 2011 (Fiscal Years 2010 and 2011). The following pages detail various efforts by TMIP during that time period to serve the travel model professional community-and through it, the public-by providing tools, research, and various avenues for professional exchange.

Advancing the Practice

TMIP shares many of its objectives with other stakeholder groups and national organizations.

Who We Are

The Travel Model Improvement Program (TMIP) was established as a partnership by the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), Federal Transit Administration (FTA), Office of the Secretary of Transportation (OST) and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to conduct research as well as deliver technical assistance and training to transportation planning professionals. In June 2002, TMIP updated its five-year strategic plan which represents a continuation of activities that had been the foundation of the program since its inception in 1994. These activities are: training, technical assistance, information sharing and research. Currently, TMIP is funded by the Federal Highway Administration's Office of Planning, Environment and Realty's Surface Transportation Environment and Planning Cooperative Research Program (STEP).

What We Do

TMIP shares many of its objectives with other stakeholder groups and national organizations. TMIP works cooperatively with the Metropolitan Capacity Building Program (MCB), which is focused on enhancing the capabilities of State and local transportation staffs to meet planning requirements and needs. TMIP also works with the Association of Metropolitan Planning Organizations (AMPO) and the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO).

Over recent decades, travel demand modeling, as well as the planning activities to support it, has become increasingly important to evaluate the costs and benefits of transportation improvements. Travel demand models are also used as an input into air quality and noise analyses. As funding becomes increasingly hard to come by, the importance of these evaluative tools is increasing, along with the need to improve these tools.

The mission of TMIP is to support and empower planning agencies to better meet current and future mobility, environmental, safety, and security goals. In support of this mission, TMIP's primary goals are:

Programs and activities in support of these goals are listed in the following sections.

Building Institutional Capacity

To meet the goal of increasing planning agencies' institutional capacity to perform travel-related technical analyses, TMIP provides various avenues to disseminate information on professional development activities for modeling, maintains a clearinghouse of resource information, sponsors different types of professional development opportunities, and conducts outreach including regular webinars by modeling professionals.

Technical Syntheses

screenshot of the TMIP website homepage.

TMIP maintains a website at http://www.fhwa.dot.gov/planning/tmip/ to provide the modeling community updates on relevant news, tools, and upcoming conferences.

TMIP generates regular technical syntheses of recent discussion topics that generate significant interest on the TMIP email list. Topics covered over the current two-year period include:

Website and Clearinghouse

TMIP maintains a website at http://www.fhwa.dot.gov/planning/tmip/ to provide the modeling community updates on relevant news, tools, and upcoming conferences. The TMIP website overall sees over 40,000 page visits per year. Online resources include:

E-Communications

TMIP helps planning agencies build their institutional capacity to develop and deliver travel related information to support transportation and planning decisions.

screenshot of several TMIP news web pages

Fostering community within the travel modeling profession is key to disseminating information, sharing best practices, and growing future expertise in the field. To this end, TMIP hosts several targeted email lists:

TMIP News

TMIP has disseminated news and updates through regular email to the TMIP email list. TMIP-News publicizes upcoming webinar events, Virtual Mentoring and Technical Support Center office hours, and news items of interest to the travel demand modeling community.

Web Knowledge and Information Exchange

TMIP's very successful Web Knowledge and Information Exchange (WKIE) is a web-delivered series on current topics of interest to the travel modeling community. Registrations often fill up quickly for each webinar. Many of the webinars have been successfully recorded and are available with a copy of the presentation on the TMIP website.

WKIEs Held Between October 1, 2009, and September 30, 2011
September 29, 2011
Forecasting Land Use Activities (6): Modeling Real Estate Demand
October 27, 2011
Forecasting Land Use Activities (7): Modeling Real Estate Supply
November 17, 2011
Forecasting Land Use Activities (8): Creating and Visualizing Land Use Forecasting Scenarios
June 9, 2011
Forecasting Land Use Activities (5): UrbanSim: A Dynamic Microsimulation Framework
May 24, 2011
Forecasting Land Use Activities (4): PECAS - Spatial Input-Output Frameworks
April 14, 2011
Forecasting Land Use Activities (3): I-PLACES - Scenario Planning and Visioning
March 10, 2011
Forecasting Land Use Activities (2): Land Use Theory and Data
March 8, 2011
OpenStreetMap and Google Transit Feed / Pedestrian-Bicycle Counts
February 17, 2011
Using R for Travel Modeling
February 10, 2011
Forecasting Land Use Activities (1): The Evolving State of the Practice
January 5, 2011
Household Travel Surveys: Methodological Challenges and Opportunities
October 28, 2010
Travel Model Validation Update (or Why Your Model is Wrong and What to Do About It), Part 2
October 27, 2010
Travel Model Validation Update (or Why Your Model is Wrong and What to Do About It), Part 1
September 22, 2010
Large Area Transport Simulations: Climbing the Mountain - Near Term Research Challenges
July 14, 2010
Introduction to Travel Demand Forecasting
July 1, 2010
Using New Technologies for Travel Speed and O/D Data
June 16, 2010
Portal 2.0 - A Next-Generation Data Archive for the Portland- Vancouver Metropolitan Region
May 27, 2010
Building and Calibrating Activity-Based Models: Stories from the Trenches
April 29, 2010
GIS-based Bicycle and Pedestrian Demand Forecasting and Traffic Count Programs
March 9, 2010
Hybrid Trip-Based/Tour-Based Models
February 5, 2010
Integrating Freight Data into Transportation Models
January 25, 2010
Data Transferability and Data Mining
December 7, 2009
Sharing Travel Model Development and Estimation Experience
November 30, 2009
Dynamic Traffic Assignment #3: No Sweat, a More Detailed Look at DTA (Part 1)
November 23, 2009
Dynamic Traffic Assignment #4: No Sweat, a More Detailed Look at DTA (Part 2)
October 23, 2009
Dynamic Traffic Assignment #2: Putting DTA to Work
October 5, 2009
Dynamic Traffic Assignment #1: DTA in a Nutshell

Virtual Mentoring and Technical Support Center

TMIP actively works to develop and improve analytical methods that respond to the needs of planning and environmental decision making processes.

Two VMTSC sessions were held early in FY 2010. The discussion during these sessions focused on comparison of modeled home-based work trips to Census journey-to-work data, methods for increasing VMT demand through adjustment of rates, generalized cost assignment and the defensibility of path-favoring for external-external truck trip assignment as well as generalized cost assignments for truck trips. There was also dialogue during these sessions on uncertainty analysis and sensitivity testing as well as methods for developing activity-based models.

Ensuring the Quality of Technical Analysis

Several TMIP activities are geared toward the development of mechanisms that address the quality of technical analysis in travel demand modeling. Toward this goal, TMIP provides support for TMIP-sponsored peer reviews and peer exchanges, as well as gathers and disseminates information on advances in travel demand practice.

Peer Review Program

TMIP supports peer reviews by assisting agencies in panel assembly, logistics, and funding for travel.

The Peer Review program provides an opportunity for planning agencies to invite a peer review panel to review their models to ensure that the technical processes they are applying meet standards of professional practice and meet Federal, State, or local planning requirements. TMIP supports peer reviews by assisting agencies in panel assembly, logistics, and funding for travel. Peer reviews conducted during the current two-year period include:

During the reporting period, TMIP worked on the document Peer Review Process Guide: How to Get the Most Out of Your Peer Review (released April 2010).

Peer Exchange Program

As part of the Peer Exchange program, TMIP sponsors peer exchanges, which are facilitated discussions on a focused topic. The intent behind these exchanges is to disseminate techniques being used by those leading the profession in a particular subject area. The information is conveyed not only to the participants, but also to others in the profession through the documentation of the peer exchange. There were no peer exchanges convened during this reporting period.

This report highlights a number of accomplishments that were achieved with limited funds.

Travel Model Validation and Reasonableness Checking Manual - 2nd Edition

As the result of a peer exchange meeting held in 2008, the Travel Model Validation and Reasonableness Checking Manual was revised. This edition focuses on both existing trip-based and emerging activity- and tour-based modeling processes. While it is impossible to specify the checks needed to validate every possible model, this manual describes families of checks and provides concrete examples of their application. The revised manual is available on-line in the TMIP Clearinghouse.

Non-Motorized Travel Case Study

This study was designed to identify the factors that influence walk and bike travel. Using NHTS data, combined with GIS and census data, the team identified specific variables associated with the propensity to travel by walking. The case study approach focused on Chittenden County, Vermont, and included county and sub-county level analyses to assess the influence of completeness and complexity of network coverage for roads and sidewalks as well as a matched-pair analysis to identify why some people walk and others travel by car for the same origin-destination pairs. The study considered only those respondents age 16 or older who reported at least one trip on the travel day.

At the county level, the results suggest that walking is most strongly associated with age, education level, presence of children, type of job, physical activity levels, and a positive attitude towards walking; higher residential densities and presence of shopping centers and social and institutional centers; and having an adequate number of good sidewalks or walking paths. This suggests that smaller urban areas can promote increased walking through infrastructure investments in and near areas with higher residential densities and more shopping centers and social/institutional centers. In addition, education about the benefits of walking may also influence mode choice.

A Snapshot of Travel Modeling Activities - Addendum

The 2011 Addendum updated the information compiled and presented for the report "A Snapshot of Travel Modeling Activities," August 8, 2008. The purpose for the original 2008 report was to summarize the use of travel demand models by several Metropolitan Planning Organizations (MPOs) chosen based upon their recognized leadership in the industry and their commitment to continue to develop advanced travel demand forecasting tools to support the regional planning process. Highlights of 2011 findings included: continuing activities to develop, implement, and maintain activity-based models; enhancements to model components, both activity-based and trip-based depending on the MPO; and emerging issues and tools to address them.

A Snapshot of Model Activities in Texas

The Texas Transportation Institute documented the travel model activities in the state of Texas for travel models under the purview of the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT). TxDOT has been involved in model development and travel model activities since the early 1960s. With the implementation of the Surface Transportation Act in 1962, TxDOT became the lead travel demand model developer in the state for all urban areas greater than 50,000 in population and continues to be the lead model developer for 23 of the 25 urban areas in the state. While the previously published report entitled, "Snapshot of Travel Model Activities: (2008)," highlighted five large urbanized regions throughout the country, this report provides detailed information about travel model activities in the state of Texas for small-to-medium sized Metropolitan Planning Organizations (MPOs) supported by TxDOT. There are three main aspects in TxDOT's approach to modeling that have been an underlying motif throughout the ensuing decades and that inform the structure of this report; these are:

These three themes then, form the basis for a snapshot of modeling activities in Texas. Beginning with a brief history of modeling in the state, the snapshot focuses on TxDOT's current activities and is comprised of the following sections:

Neither Dallas-Fort Worth, which was documented in the previous "Snapshot" report, nor Houston-Galveston are reviewed as a part of this effort.

Monitoring Progress

As part of the Peer Exchange program, TMIP sponsors peer exchanges, which are facilitated discussions on a focused topic.

screenshot of TMIP's TMIP News webpage

Synopsis of Activities

One way that TMIP measures the success of activities in support of its mission is by measuring participation in its various programs. The statistics below generally indicate increasing usage of the TMIP resources. Statistics for fiscal year 2009 are provided for comparison.

TMIP Website
Fiscal year ending Total Page Visits
2009 47,311
2010 35,569
2011 31,943
TMIP-L Listserv
Fiscal year ending Total subscribers Total messages
2009 1,237 760
2010 1,358 613
2011 1,500 (est.) 600 (est.)
TMIP-News Listserv
Fiscal year ending Total subscribers Total messages
2009 295 18
2010 298 18
2011 310 (est.) 14 (est.)
TRANSIMS-L Listserv
Fiscal year ending Total subscribers Total messages
2009 179 149
2010 194 202
2011 206 (est.) 30 (est.)

Conclusion

This report highlights a number of accomplishments that were achieved with limited funds. Approximately $212,872 and $288,590 were spent for FY 2010 and FY 2011 (thru July) respectively. During the two-year time frame TMIP has worked within a challenging environment to provide a professional forum for education, debate, and friendly challenges among professionals to keep improving the travel models to meet changing needs. Though TMIP's three primary goals are (1) building institutional capacity, (2) improving analytical methods to advance the practice and (3) ensuring the quality of technical analysis, the majority of accomplishments during the two-year period were aimed at building institutional capacity.

TMIP Staff

Federal Highway Administration

Sarah Sun
TMIP Outreach Manager
1200 New Jersey Ave SE
HEPP-30
Washington DC 20590
Phone: 202-493-0071
Fax: 202-493-2198
sarah.sun@dot.gov

Brian Gardner
Transportation Systems Performance Team Leader
1200 New Jersey Ave SE
HEPP-30
Washington DC 20590
Phone: 202-366-4061
Fax: 202-493-2198
brian.gardner@dot.gov

Texas Transportation Institute

Gary Thomas
Texas Transportation Institute
3135 TAMU
College Station TX 77843-3135
Phone: 979-458-3263
Fax: 979-845-6001
g-thomas@tamu.edu

TMIP is funded by the Federal Highway Administration's Office of Planning, Environment and Realty.

Gloria Shepherd
Associate Administrator
Office of Planning, Environment and Realty
1200 New Jersey Ave. SE
Washington DC 20590
Phone: 202-366-0116

James Cheatham
Director
Office of Planning
1200 New Jersey Ave. SE
Washington DC 20590
Phone: 202-366-0106

http://www.fhwa.dot.gov/planning/tmip/

US Department of Transportation
Federal Highway Administration

Updated: 03/28/2014
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