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Community2Go! – Pilot of a Community-Based Voluntary Travel Behavior Change Effort

(Center Identification Number: 77974-00)

Principal Investigator:

Philip L. Winters, Director, TDM Program
Center for Urban Transportation Research (CUTR)
University of South Florida
4202 E. Fowler Avenue, CUT 100
Tampa, Florida  33620-5375
winters@cutr.usf.edu
(813) 974-9811

Co-Principal Investigators:

Sara Hendricks, Senior Research Associate
Center for Urban Transportation Research (CUTR)
University of South Florida
4202 E. Fowler Avenue, CUT 100
Tampa, Florida  33620-5375
hendricks@cutr.usf.edu
(813) 974-9801

Julie Bond, Senior Research Associate
Center for Urban Transportation Research (CUTR)
University of South Florida
4202 E. Fowler Avenue, CUT 100
Tampa, Florida  33620-5375
bond@cutr.usf.edu
(813) 974-9799

DSR Contact:

Sharon Pinson, Division of Sponsored Research
Office of Research and Innovation
University of South Florida
3702 Spectrum Blvd, Suite 165
Tampa, Florida  33612-9445
spinson@research.usf.edu
(813) 974-0360

Project Manager:

Michael Wright, Statewide CAP & Florida RTAP Manager
Florida DOT – Transit Office
michael.wright1@dot.state.fl.us
(850) 414-4529

Background Statement

Traffic congestion and the associated environmental impacts continue to adversely affect Floridians. According to the Texas Transportation Institute’s annual Urban Mobility Reports, Florida’s population increased 15% in the seven largest urban areas over the past decade (2002-2011). However, peak period travelers increased even more (21%) and the annual cost of congestion in these areas increased by 38%. This cost was incurred despite a growth rate in freeway miles and arterial lane miles that exceeded population growth rate. These urban areas had a total of 26% increase of freeway lane miles and 16% increase in arterial street lane miles. Demand for freeway daily vehicle miles of travel in these same urban areas increased by 25%. This growth in demand wasn’t limited to highways. Florida public transportation systems in those urban areas saw their annual passenger miles and passenger trips increase 40% and 32%, respectively.

There has been some progress as the overall annual hours of delay increased only 7% overall but the average is misleading. Some Florida urban areas experienced much larger increases in delay. For example, Tampa Bay increased delay by 23% while Miami saw only a 4% increase.

All this growth in demand has severe environmental consequences, too. In these seven urban areas, the excess emissions of CO2 would fill over 150,000 Goodyear blimps. The amount of annual excess fuel consumed in 2011 alone from these areas would fill nearly 260 Olympic-sized swimming pools. This pace is not sustainable.

The Florida Commuter Assistance Program (CAP) evaluation found the current process has room for improvement. Overall, when the CAPs provided customers with a list of potential carpool partners only 37% of customers actually attempted to contact the potential match. However, when they did reach out, 45% of those customers (8 percent of the total) actually formed a pool. Clearly, getting more people to take action should increase the effectiveness of the effort. Combined with the introduction of new services like carsharing and bikesharing and new travel incentives such as managed lanes, CAPs are being presented with more opportunities to influence commuter travel behavior and reduce congestion and pollution.

Simply, passively distributing information has not changed behavior of the majority of CAP customers. Florida needs different approaches that complement its commitments to public transportation and introduction of managed lanes to help manage demand. The following proposal outlines a method for combining community-based social marketing (CBSM) approach with technology-enabled tools to facilitate follow-through and evaluation.

This project will reduce household vehicle miles of travel and vehicle trips in the peak periods by applying the following strategies at the household level:

  • Reducing the share of car driving, especially single occupant vehicle travel
  • Increasing the frequency and duration of carpooling
  • Shifting car driving to off-peak periods
  • Increasing the frequency and distance of walking trips
  • Increasing bicycle use
  • Increasing use of transit
  • Increasing vehicle occupancy
  • Increasing the use of technology as substitute for travel
  • Increasing frequency of trip chaining

Project Objective

The research question is how the community-based social marketing approach that provides personalized assistance compares with simple provision of materials used by Florida commuter assistance programs to reduce vehicle trips.

The proposed hypothesis: “Providing personalized follow-up assistance to individuals about their travel options will reduce more vehicle trips than not providing personalized follow-up assistance to individuals.”

Null hypothesis: “Providing personalized follow-up assistance to individuals about their travel options will not reduce more vehicle trips than not providing personalized follow-up assistance to individuals.”

We can reject the null hypothesis if we can demonstrate one case where the CBSM does reduce more vehicle trips.

In formulating the hypothesis, it should be understood that the rejection of a hypothesis is to conclude that it is false, while the acceptance of a hypothesis merely implies that we have insufficient evidence to believe otherwise. Because of this, we stated the hypothesis in the form of what is hoped will be rejected. The research objectives are:

  1. To investigate the efficiency of community-based social marketing approach, Community2Go, in the reduction of vehicle trips.
  2. To document procedures and training materials used to guide CAPs in replicating the CBSM process.
  3. To provide guidance on which resources and tools requested by households most closely correlate with the changes in vehicle trips..

Supporting Tasks and Deliverables

Task 1. Development of IRB-approved survey instruments

Draft survey instruments will be prepared and submitted to USF’s Institutional Review Board for review and approval.

Task 1 Deliverable. Draft survey instruments approved by USF’s Institutional Review Board will be emailed to sandra.bell@dot.state.fl.us.

Task 2. Conduct a literature review on community-based social marketing applications in transportation

Community2Go! is a community‐based social marketing (CBSM) approach to influencing travel behavior. This CBSM approach is similar to other efforts to influence behaviors such as recycling, energy and water conservation campaigns. Community2Go’s focus would be on identifying and encouraging targeted neighborhoods to change the way they travel and to be less reliant on single occupancy vehicle trips. This task will review similar efforts (e.g., SmartTrips in Portland, Way to Go Seattle, and TravelSmart in Australia) to build upon the lessons learned of similar efforts in other communities.

Task 2 Deliverable: none. Task 2 expenses will be invoiced with Task 3 expenses after the Task 3 deliverable has been approved.

Task 3. Select pilot community

For the purposes of this project, a community is characterized by a sense of identification and emotional connection to other members, close geographical proximity to each other, and shared values and norms. With input from one or more Florida commuter assistance programs and using Census data, commercial data (e.g., Prizm) and various analytical tools such as Walk Score®/Bike Score/ Transit Score, CUTR will identify a target community. Developing a methodology using existing tools such as Walk Score can provide a view of potential adoption of non-driving options within the community. Walk Score, for example, uses an algorithm that assigns points based on the distance to amenities such as shopping. Amenities within .25 miles receive maximum points and no points are awarded for amenities further than one mile. High walk or bike scores would suggest greater possibilities for substituting bike and walk trips for driving.

Task 3 Deliverable: Technical memorandum #1 will summarize the findings from the literature review (Task 2 above) and identify the pilot community. The technical memorandum will be emailed to sandra.bell@dot.state.fl.us.

Task 4. Recruit and train the community-based transportation coordinators

Previous research has found that voluntary behavior change happens when an individual decides to make changes that will improve his or her lifestyle in some way. The desire to change can be triggered by any of the following:

  • hearing of someone else who has changed, especially a trusted person,
  • the realization that it is possible to change,
  • the negative effects of an existing activity reaching a certain level of intolerance, and
  • experiencing a change moment such as a new job or new residence.

As explained above, hearing from a trusted person is one factor that can influence behavior change. The purpose of using a community-based transportation coordinator (CBTC) is to personalize the assistance to influence the intensity, timing and spatial distribution of demand for the purpose of reducing the impact of traffic and enhancing mobility options. To that point, at least one CBTC will be recruited from that community and/or commuter assistance program. Ideally, they will be individuals who use transit, bicycle, etc. to help establish his or her credibility. CUTR will develop a training program to help CBTCs develop a thorough understanding of the travel options available in the community. CUTR will develop the guide conversation outline and instruct CBTCs how to conduct a guided conversation. The CBTC will help the targeted households identify the positive travel choices as well as negative effects of their existing travel behavior that have reached a certain level of intolerance. The CBTCs will show households that it is possible to change using tools like Walk Score®. They also will be looking for other potential change moments such as taking a new job or moving to a new residence. For example, commute trips may become longer and incur additional costs such as tolls and parking.

Task 4 Deliverable: Develop and conduct training program for CBTCs. The final form of the training will be placed on CUTR’s learning management system (transportationlearning.org). Links to the LMS training and/or documents of the training materials will be sent to sandra.bell@dot.state.fl.us.

Task 5. Prepare resources/tools

Along with a guided conversation and coaching by the CBTC, resources/tools and/or incentives would be provided to encourage people to change their travel behavior voluntarily (e.g., transit schedule for routes that meet their needs, map of bicycle network, pedometers, etc.). Whenever possible, existing tools will be used. The CBTC will use an interactive process for engaging household members to think about how to meet their mobility needs by using a range of travel options. Such actions can include offering more personalized information on one or more alternative transportation modes and/or services in which they have expressed interest, providing incentives to travel on these modes, incentivize off-peak travel, and identifying opportunities to better link or “chain” trips together.

With proliferation of smart phones and automatic vehicle locator systems on transit enabling real-time information (e.g., OneBusAway in Tampa), Florida can benefit from blending the high touch approaches of CBSM with high tech tools to maximize the opportunities for influencing travel behavior. A website will be established, www.community2go.org, to help integrate the various tools for the community.

The tools will also help measure changes in behavior. CUTR will adapt TRAC-IT, a GPS cell phone application developed under previous research projects with FDOT to record travel behavior of test and control groups for several weeks to gauge the effect of Community2Go! on VMT, household trips, alternative mode use, etc. CUTR will attempt to measure the secondary effects of changes in behavior (e.g., if the customer uses transit to work, does he or she also use it for other trip purposes?) via TRAC-IT.

Task 5 Deliverables: A website for the program (www.community2go.org) with identified resources and incentives. TRAC-IT installed on test and control phones. Website link and a brief summary of the TRAC-IT installation will be sent to sandra.bell@dot.state.fl.us.

Task 6. Choose test and control households and initiate pilot

6.1 Design the Sample

The evaluation of the project begins with the design of the sample to help assess changes in vehicle trips. Changes in vehicle trips correlates closely with the goals of commuter assistance program strategies to reduce traffic congestion, decrease emission, and decrease fossil fuel consumption.

There are several challenges with designing the monitoring and evaluation component of this community-based social marketing approach to voluntary travel behavior change. These challenges include determining the sufficient sample size to account for known variability in the dependent and independent variables, as described below, and also controlling costs associated with sample size requirements. The project team proposes to use a test and control research design to measure the impact of the community-based social marketing on vehicle trips made at the household level over a weekly (or longer) basis. The following summarizes the reasoning behind the research design and the minimum sample size requirements.

Researchers reviewing similar personalized marketing efforts noted several pitfalls with respect to sample sizes in measuring the effects in their review of similar approaches to changing travel behavior (O’Fallon & Sullivan, 2003). The authors found that the evaluations of such programs are often confounded by biases in the selection of participants exposed to the “treatment” in the travel behavior program and changes in external factors (e.g., changes in gas prices between before-and-after surveys). Determining the appropriate sample size to account for known variability in this project will permit the establishment of reasonable confidence intervals around the change in travel behavior.

The variability of the dependent variable – vehicle trips in our case – is one of the factors for determining accurate sample size. The higher degree of the variability then the larger the sample size required. Sample size requirements (and costs) can be reduced by moderating the variability of the dependent variable. Larger sample sizes are required to detect changes in distance traveled than in vehicle trips due to the larger variability of mileage versus trips (Richardson, 2003). For this project, CUTR proposes using vehicle trips as the dependent variable to reduce the sample size requirements.

We also propose to take other steps to minimize the sample size requirements. The use of a panel survey where the same people are measured at least twice (before-CBSM vs. after-CBSM) does not require sample sizes as large as a repeated cross-sectional survey of the population. Collecting the data over longer periods (week vs. day) also decreases the sample size requirements because the variability is less over a weekly total than a daily total.

Determination of the sample size also is based on the specification of the smallest effect we want to detect, the Type I (rate of false positives) and Type II error rates (rate of false negatives), and the design of the study. A Type I Error will have been committed if we reject the null hypothesis when it is in fact true. For example, we have a Type I error if we conclude that there has been no decrease in household vehicle trips following the implementation of CBSM when, in fact, there has been a decrease in household vehicle trips. A Type II Error will have been committed if we accept the null hypothesis when it is, in fact, false. For example, we have a Type II error when we conclude that there has been a decrease in household vehicle trips following the implementation of CBSM when, in fact, it was simply chance variations in the two surveys that gave the appearance of a decrease in household vehicle trips.

Obviously in testing hypotheses we would be interested in trying to minimize the chances of making either a Type I or Type II error. The degree to which we wish to avoid each type of error is expressed in terms of the maximum probability that we will accept for making each type of error. The acceptable probability of committing a Type I error is called the level of significance of the test and is denoted by α. The acceptable probability of committing a Type II error is denoted by β. The value 1-β is often called the power of the test.

Therefore, the required sample size for hypothesis testing in before and after surveys is given by:

n = 2(zα +zβ)22)/δ2

where

n = required sample size

α = the probability of making a Type I error

β = the probability of making a Type II error

s = the standard deviation of the parameter to be tested

δ = the required difference in the parameter to be tested

σ = mean

zα, zβ = critical values from standard normal distribution tables at levels of significance a and b

The sample size requirements for this project have been estimated based on data from previous research. The previous study found the average number of weekly trips per household in the control group was 28.38 trips with a standard deviation of 5.03. Assuming that α and β equal 5% (one-tailed) and δ equals 10% of the mean, then the required sample size is about 70 households.

These sample size reduction strategies can also make the survey more difficult to collect. Panel data are more difficult to obtain than cross-sectional data due to dependence on the same participants completing at least two rounds of surveys (Richardson, 2003). Weekly surveys are more burdensome than daily activity diaries when collected via paper surveys. CUTR proposes to use TRAC-IT, a GPS-based mobile phone software system developed under previous FDOT research contracts to track travel behavior of test and control groups. TRAC-IT was designed to collect comprehensive individual trip data including start time, end time, origin, destination, travel speed, trip route, and trip distance with minimal input from participants.

Mobile phones will help overcome the limitations cited above. This method is easier, more comprehensive and more accurate than paper diaries for tracking of person movements, not simply vehicle movements. The GPS component provides a means of tracking time, route, and speed, while the “active” version of the software on the phone provides a means of recording items such as mode, occupancy, and trip purpose. To minimize concerns with application working on a rapidly changing mix of phones and operating systems, the sampled households will be loaned with a flip phone to carry with the TRAC-IT software enabled.

The richness of the data collected via TRAC-IT includes the ability to collect and analyze multimodal travel behavior and patterns at the household level. Since data could be synched directly into a database, TRAC-IT eliminated the errors associated with manual data entry. TRAC-IT system also was able to remotely upload the data to the server.

Deliverable 6.1: None. The sample plan will be part of the deliverable 6.2.

6.2 Recruit and Group the Households. The household recruitment process begins with notification letters signed by an official or community leader. An order form will be provided to residents to gauge their interest in walking, bicycling, transit, carpooling, and more. The CBTC will send order forms in waves each week. The CBTC will process and send or deliver the materials and incentives within two-weeks of receiving an order. Three weeks after the order form is sent, a reminder postcard will be sent with the Web order form address and a phone number for requesting an order form by mail.

A brief survey will be developed and provided to the households to help understand more about the household. The results would be to seek to classify each household into one of three groups: (1) Not Interested (NI) in changing transportation habits, (2) Current User(s) (CU) of transit, bicycling, carpooling, etc. (3) Interested Potential User(s) (IPU) of those non-drive alone modes. The focus will be placed on the latter two groups with either rewards for current use or encouragement to try a new mode.

6.3 Follow-up with the Test and Control Groups. CBTCs will be assigned to follow-up with test CU and IPU households with consultation phone calls, small group meetings and/or home visits on request, to establish the baseline travel data using TRAC-IT and other supplementary surveys. The control group will not receive personalized attention from the CBTC. After the baselines are established, the CBTCs will provide the appropriate resources/tools and incentives. Some of the CU group may be interested in receiving further information (for example, about other transit services that they are not presently using). Individuals in the CU group may also receive incentives or rewards for their use of environmentally friendly modes.

The role of the CBTCs will be to respond to any problems or requests from the CU and IPU groups.

Residents can order a variety of maps, brochures, tips, and event schedules for every mode of transportation: walking, bicycling, transit, carpool, car sharing, and driving.

  • Walking — The WalkWise kit will include a free pedometer plus a schedule of neighborhood walking tours, a Walk to Wellness brochure highlighting area programs focused on walking and health, walking logs to keep count of daily steps, summary of Florida pedestrian laws, and an area walking map (when available).
  • Bicycling — The BikeSmart kit may include available citywide and neighborhood bicycle maps, a guide with tips and rules of the road, information about Bikes On Bus programs, bikesharing options, available discounts, etc.
  • Transit — All relevant schedules, guides for seniors and the disabled, and a personalized list of transit routes serving their residential community. Depending on the community, we will provide identifiers for the bus stops that have real-time bus arrival information available.
  • Driving — Car sharing, carpooling, and vanpooling can be ordered.

6.4 Conduct Data Analysis.

Data will be collected from TRAC-IT and supplementary surveys. The analysis will compare the effect of Community2Go “treatment” on changes in vehicle trips versus the control group. The analysis will also document procedures and training materials used to guide CAPs in replicating the CBSM process.

Task 6.1 Deliverable: None

Task 6.2 Deliverable: A copy of the communication materials, summary of items requested by households, and summary of the brief survey provided to the households to help understand more about the household will be sent to sandra.bell@dot.state.fl.us approximately 3 months after start of Task 6.

Task 6.3 Deliverable: A summary of the composition of each kit will be will be sent to sandra.bell@dot.state.fl.us approximately 2 months after start of Task 6.

Task 6.4 Deliverable: None. This task will be submitted as part of the draft final report (Task 7).

Task 7. Prepare Final Report

Ninety (90) days prior to the end date of the task work order, the university will submit a draft final report to sandra.bell@dot.state.fl.us The draft final report will contain a summary of the methodology, findings, compilation of aforementioned deliverables, and recommendations for future research and implementation. The draft final and final reports will follow the Guidelines for University Presentation and Publication of Research available at http://www.dot.state.fl.us/research-center/Program_Information/GuidelinesJuly2013.pdf

The report will be well-written and edited for technical accuracy, grammar, clarity, organization, and format.

Task 7 Deliverable: Final report. Upon Department approval of the draft final report, the university will submit the Final Report on two (2) CDs. Both CDs shall contain the report in PDF and Word formats. CDs should be labeled in a professional manner and include contract number, task work order number, project title, and date.

The final report will be provided by the end date of the task work order and should be mailed to the Florida Department of Transportation, Research Center, 605 Suwannee Street, MS 30, Tallahassee, FL 32399-0450.

Use of Subcontractor(s)

None.

Use of Graduate Student(s) and other Research Assistants

Graduate students will assist in the setting up and distribution of the data collection tools and promotional materials to households, processing of data, assisting in the analysis, and other duties as assigned.

Equipment

For the data collection tools, Sprint has agreed to donate 70 Kyocera DuraXT or equivalent flip phones for 12 months. These mobile phones are dustproof, shockproof, and waterproof. CUTR needs to only purchase the data-plan-only service. See below.

Expenses

CUTR will purchase data-only plans for each at $25 per month per phone for 12 months from Sprint.

Incentives for carrying the cellphones to collect travel data (e.g., gift card) and relevant promotional materials for the kits referenced in Task 6 (e.g., pedometers, transit passes, tote bags, gift cards, etc.). Incentives are valued at an average of $25 per participant per month.

Travel

The PI and co-PIs expect to travel locally to visit pilot site. The estimated total cost of travel is $534 primarily related to mileage reimbursement, tolls, parking, and rental cars. The maximum amount of travel is limited to $534. The maximum amount of indirect cost on Travel is limited to $53.40.All travel shall be in accordance with Section 112.061, Florida Statutes. FDOT employees may not travel on research contracts. Travel only will be used when teleconference and web meetings cannot achieve the purpose of the travel.

Project Kickoff Teleconference

The Principal Investigator will schedule a kickoff teleconference that shall be held within the first 30 days of execution. The project manager, principal investigator, and research performance coordinator shall attend. Other parties may be invited if appropriate. The purpose of the meeting is to review the tasks, deliverables, and deployment plan. Teleconference/web meeting should be used.

Project Closeout Teleconference

The principal investigator will schedule a closeout teleconference that shall be held during the final 30 days of the task work order. The principal investigator, project manager, and research performance coordinator shall attend. Other parties may be invited, if appropriate. The purpose of the meeting is to review project performance, the deployment plan, and next steps.

Performance

Work not identified and included in this scope of service is not to be performed and will not be subject to compensation by the Department.

Publication Provision

If at any time the University or subcontractor (if applicable) desires to publish in any form any material that has not been submitted for formal review and acceptance by the Department, the University must submit to the Department an abstract and notification of intent to publish materials, and receive the Department’s concurrence to publish. To protect the interest of the Department, such publication must prominently contain the following statement “The Florida Department of Transportation has not reviewed or accepted this material.” Both written and oral releases are considered to be within the context of publication. However, there is no intention to limit discussion of the study with small technical groups or lectures to employees or students. Lectures that describe the plans but disclose neither data nor results may be given to other groups without advance approval.

Project Schedule

October 2013 to April 2015

Project Budget

Total Project Cost     $211,885.99

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