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Center Identification Number:  77609     


Project Title:  Testing the Impact of Personalized Feedback on Household Travel Behavior (TRAC-IT 2)   


Co-Principal Investigators:        

Phil Winters
TDM Program Director

Nevine Georggi, Research Associate
Phone: (813) 974-9770

Sean Barbeau, Visiting Research Associate
Phone: (813) 974-1343



Center for Urban Transportation Research

University of South Florida

Fax: 813-974-5168


External Project Contact:     


Michael Wright

Public Transportation Office / Transit Planning





I.  Project Objective/Problem Statement

Making smart travel choices require understanding the operation of the transportation system and influencing the use of public transportation. This knowledge begins with collecting data to measure or monitor travel behavior. This research project is Phase II of the ongoing NCTR project “Traveling Smart: Increasing Transit Ridership by Automatic Collection (TRAC) of Individual Travel Behavior Data and Personalized Feedback” or TRAC-IT. Phase I of TRAC-IT will be finalized April 2005. The focus of Phase I was to design, implement and test a portable automatic activity diary system. To date, a personal digital assistance (PDA) combined with a global positioning system (GPS) was assembled as one unit PDA/GPS and loaded with an activity diary that collects information such as travel purpose, origin, destination, travel time, speed, occupancy, etc. The task of designing the service (including user devices and communication options), identifying the data to be captured, transmitted, and processed, designing user interfaces, creating the database design, and preparing system testing procedures (communication system and PDA) is ongoing. Additionally, a “GPS-Enabled” cell phone has been identified as a possible cost-effective replacement for the PDA/GPS device combination and could even provide additional benefits such as extended battery-life and increased portability due to its smaller size. Also, the task of building an expert system that provides customized feedback advice tailored to an individual’s travel behavior patterns is well underway. The goals of Phase I were to (1) test the technology of gathering travel data and providing feedback advice through the PDA/GPS prototype and (2) test and refine the communications protocols used in the process. The trial expert system developed for this phase tested the suggestion generation rationale on a handful of households for a particular set of sample travel scenarios but did not monitor or measure travel behavior changes.

Phase II will test the handheld device prototype (“GPS-Enabled” cell phone or PDA/GPS) on a larger sample of households and measure the changes in household travel behavior after providing tailored travel advice (aka Travel Blending) using the trial expert system developed in Phase I.

Travel blending has been used extensively in Australia with positive increases in transit ridership. Travel blending trials conducted in Adelaide and Sydney, Australia recorded significant reductions in car use among those that persevered in the program. A study of 329 households in Adelaide saw a reduction of 17 per cent in vehicle kilometers traveled (VKT) (Tisato & Robinson 1999). Trials in Perth recorded a 17 per cent reduction in VKT, an increase in walking by 16 per cent, cycling by 91 per cent and transit by 21 per cent (Brog et al., 1999, p. 562).

Using the electronic travel diary system developed in Phase 1, this project will collect baseline travel behavior data from a sample of households over an extended period (2 – 4 weeks). The data collected will be instantly transferred to a database that comprises the expert system, will be analyzed and appropriate travel suggestions will be generated. The customized travel suggestions will be presented to the experimental group and not to a control group. Another round of activity-based travel data will be collected using the handheld device after providing the suggestions. Analysis of travel behavior changes before and after travel advice will be analyzed and presented.

II.  Objectives/Tasks

The project objectives are to (1) fine tune the trial expert advice system prototype designed in phase I by testing the system on a larger sample of households and expand its capability to provide customized advice, and (2) quantify changes in travel behavior patterns after providing personalized travel advice to encourage individuals to choose a mix of travel choices to satisfy their travel needs rather than only choose the single occupant vehicle.

The activities performed by Contractors for this project will cover re-vamping the software application/graphical user interface designed in Phase 1 for handheld devices and expanding its capability to provide new customized advice.

The Contractors are:
Rafael Perez, PhD, and Miguel Labrador, PhD, at the Computer Science and Engineering Department, College of Engineering, University of South Florida.

The proposed scope of services for this project consists of the following tasks.

Task 1. Conduct literature review to determine effective marketing for travel blending techniques

    ● Review travel blending techniques and impacts on trip-making decisions.
    ● Review different marketing techniques in providing advice to households, and best practices that encourage travel behavior changes.
    ● Identify rules used by others to determine the type of advice provided
    ● Identify delivery methods used by others (e.g., email, reports, personal follow-up, etc.)
    ● Determine performance measures for travel behavior changes such as vehicle miles traveled, number of daily trips, public transportation use and perception changes.

Task 2. Develop Survey Methodology (“GPS-Enabled” cell phone or PDA/GPS

    ● Determine sample size, control group, survey duration, etc. Expendable line item budget for (phones/PDA-GPS) is based on three waves (approx. 1 to 2 months in duration) of 10 to 20 households split into control and test groups.
    ● Design survey instrument
    ● Determine recruitment process
    ● Conduct pilot testing
    ● Finalize survey instrument.

Deliverable: Technical Memorandum 1 – Technical memorandum summarizing the literature review (Task 1) and the survey instrument (Task 2)

Task 3. Develop and refine expert system

Concurrent with Task 2, this task will pilot trial expert system and finalize it based on pilot participants results and feedback. Refining the expert system will involve expansion of rule-set of existing expert system to allow further variation, flexibility, and customization of generated travel advice (potential sources of data for advice-generation may include highway traffic speed sensors used for the 511 travel information service, allowing travelers to make better choices concerning travel time, mode, and route). Task 3 will also incorporate marketing and presentation techniques for giving advice/suggestions based on Task 1.

Task 4. Conduct baseline travel survey

    ● Select sample
    ● Contact participants, determine incentives and reminder procedures
    ● Conduct survey for 2 - 4weeks
    ● Analyze travel behavior patterns
    ● Provide the experiment group with suggestions/feedback

Deliverable: Final Expert System Application and Documentation

Task 5. Conduct travel diary after suggestions given to participants

    ● Repeat task 4 with experiment group and control group
    ● Conduct qualitative follow-up with survey Respondents

Task 6: Survey analyses

Travel behavior patterns will be compared between control and experiment groups

Task 7: Final report

Prepare draft final report and submit to FDOT and peer panel for review and comment.
Make revisions and print the contractually required number of final reports.

Deliverable: Provide final report to FDOT

III. Deliverables

In addition to quarterly progress reports, there will be three deliverables for this project. The first will be Technical Memorandum 1 summarizing the literature review (Task 1) and the survey instrument (Task 2). The second deliverable will be the final application with documentation of the travel advisory feedback system. The third deliverable will be the “Final Report” in both draft and final forms. Once approved by the FDOT Project Manager and the Research Office, 12 copies of the “Final Report,” an electronic version, and an electronic version of the project summary will be submitted to the Research Office.


IV.  Project Schedule


RESEARCH 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14
Task 1 2 2 2 2 2 2 2 1 1 1 1 1 1 1
Conduct literature review 18% 35% 50% 63% 76% 89% 100%              
Task 2 2 2 2 2 2 2 2 1 1 1 1 1 1 1
Develop survey method 30% 40% 53% 65% 77% 88% 100%              
Task 3 2 2 2 2 2 2 2 2 2 2 2 2 1 1
Develop expert system 10% 19% 28% 36% 44% 55% 64% 71% 79% 86% 93% 100%    
Task 4 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 2 2 2 2 2 2 1
Conduct baseline survey               20% 40% 56% 72% 86% 100%  
Task 5 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 2 2 2 1
Conduct followup survey                     34% 67% 100%  
Task 6 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 2 2 2 1
Analyze results                     34% 67% 100%  
Task 7 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 2 2
Prepare final report                         49% 100%


V.  Project Budget


Testing the Impact of Personalized Feedback on Household Travel Behavior (TRAC-IT 2)

Budget Categories


Center Director Salary


Faculty Salaries

$ 37,371

Admin. Staff Salaries

$   2,212

Other Staff Salaries


Student Salaries

$ 15,293

Staff Benefits

$ 20,918

Total Salaries and Benefits

$ 75,794


$   3,628

Permanent Equipment


Expendable Property/Supplies

$   4,359

Domestic Travel

$      300

Foreign Travel


Other Direct Costs

$ 23,323

Total Direct Costs


Indirect Costs

$   5,476

Total Costs



Notes: This budget does not reflect any federal participation. The project team will include faculty, students, and secretarial and other support staff who will work directly on the project and whose costs are reflected in the direct costs of the project as listed above. Budget requests includes salaries for clerical and administrative staff, postage, telephone calls, office supplies, general purpose software, subscriptions, and/or memberships.


VI. Equipment

Up to 8 cell phones and/or PDA units will be purchased under this project.

VII. Travel

Local travel – multiple trips will be conducted in and around the Tampa Bay area to field test application of the TRAC-IT feedback travel advisory system.



National Center for Transit Research · at the Center For Urban Transportation Research · University of South Florida · 4202 E. Fowler Ave., CUT100 · Tampa, FL 33620-5375 · (813) 974-3120 · (813) 974-5168 · · Comments: