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Center Identification Number:  77802   

Project Title:  Guidebook on Using American Community Survey Data for Transit Planning

Principal Investigator:

Xuehao Chu, Senior Research Associate
Phone: 813-974-9831
E-mail: chu@cutr.usf.edu

Steve Polzin, Director, Mobility Research Program
Phone: 813-974-9849
E-mail: chu@cutr.usf.edu

 

Institution:                             

Center for Urban Transportation Research
University of South Florida
Fax: 813-974-5168

External Project Contact:     

Diane Quigley
Florida Department of Transportation
(850) 576-2788
Email: diane.quigley@dot.state.fl.us

 

I.  Start and End Dates

Start Date: June 26, 2008                Expected End Date: March 30, 2010

I.  Project Objective/Problem Statement

Transit planning by transit agencies and other government agencies in Florida and throughout the nation relies heavily on the demographic data from the short-form count and the economic and journey-to-work data from the long-form survey of the decennial census for small-areas such as census block groups, census tracks, and traffic analysis zones.  While the short-form count will continue every 10 years, the long-form survey has been replaced by the American Community Survey (ACS) with largely the same questions.  The long-form survey has been mailed to a large annual sample of households (19 million in 2000) once a decade at the same time during a census year, but the ACS will be mailed monthly to a much smaller annual sample of 3 million households.  The ACS has been fully implemented since 2006, and the first product will arrive in August 2007.  While giving more current information, the ACS represents serious challenges for transit planning for a number of reasons: smaller samples; continuous measurement; and availability of demographic data from both the decennial census and ACS during the decennial census years, etc. 

Transit system planners are in urgent need of recent, small area socio-economic data to better understand and serve the needs of a changing population.  The ACS is a major departure from previous census activities and will be a boon, and bust, in terms of current, small area socio-economic data.  Currently, there is no existing guidance on how to use small area, continuous survey data for transit planning activities. The transit community needs to develop skills to use this new data source.

II.  Objectives/Tasks

This project proposes to identify the most common transit planning needs that rely heavily on the traditional census data; to examine the implications of using ACS data for these planning needs; and to prepare a final guidebook that will provide guidance to transit planners on how to use the annual ACS data (both demographic as well as economical and journey-to-work data).  The research objective will be accomplished through the following supporting tasks.

Task 1:  Project Management

This task will deal with on-going management activities of the project, preparing progress reports, and reviewing and editing final deliverables.

Task 2:  Understanding ACS Features

This task will review and contrast the long-form survey process for both the traditional decennial census and the ACS.  This task will also review and contrast data products made available to the public by the Census Bureau from both the traditional decennial census long-form survey and the ACS long-form survey.  This task will rely on ACS documentation by the Census Bureau and existing research results related to the ACS by both the Census Bureau and others.

Task 3: Identifying Applications

This task will identify common applications of the traditional decennial census long-form survey data, including how each application uses the long-form data.  Census data are widely used for transit planning purposes, including environmental justice and Title VI analyses, a variety of service planning activities by transit agencies, and long-range transit system planning efforts.  This task will focus on applications that use long-form survey data but will exclude applications that use only short-form data.  This task will be based on a number of sources, including data requirements of FDOT’s short-term service planning tool for transit (i.e., TBEST), FDOT’s Transit Development Plan guidelines, actual Transit Development Plans, and other transit planning documents from Florida agencies.  Beyond Florida, this task will be based on the proceedings of the many TRB papers and organized conferences on using decennial census data for transportation planning.

Task 4: ACS Implications

This task will detail the implications of using ACS data for the common applications of the traditional long-form survey data.  Developing these implications requires combining the ACS features identified in Task 2 with the current applications identified in Task 3.  One possible implication is that certain applications may no longer be feasible using ACS data for a given geography.  Another possible implication would be that certain applications are still feasible using ACS data for a larger geography.  At the same time, it is also possible that ACS data may allow new applications that the traditional long-form survey data do not.

Task 5:  ACS Training Data

This task will test applications of ACS data for a variety of transit planning activities.  The Census Bureau will release the first official set of ACS data in August 2008 as 3-year estimates covering 2005 - 2007.  In August 2010 the Census Bureau will release the first official set of 5-year estimates covering 2005 - 2009.  These official releases are not going to be timely for the current project, particularly for the 5-year estimates coving 2005 - 2009.  Fortunately, the Census Bureau has made the full set of ACS data products available online as a training tool for a number of counties throughout the nation that were used as test sites in the early years of the ACS effort.  The training data cover 1999 through 2005 and are available at various geographic levels, including census tracts and census block groups.  Broward County is the only Florida county in this set of training data, and will be used for this testing effort.

Task 6:  Preparing Guidebook

This task will develop a guidebook on using ACS data for transit planning with an emphasis at the local level.  This guidebook will briefly review and contrast both long-form survey processes and resulting data between decennial census and the ACS.  Much of the guidebook is planned to cover individual common applications of long-form data for transit planning.  For each application, the guidebook will show how it would have been done with decennial census data versus how it will need to be done with ACS data.  Both census 2000 data and the ACS training data for Broward County will be used to illustrate each case when feasible.

III. Deliverables

Project deliverables will include quarterly progress reports, a draft guidebook, a final guidebook, and a PowerPoint presentation about the guidebook.

Progress Reports

Progress reports will be submitted on a quarterly basis to the Research Center for processing.  The first progress report will become due 90 days after a Notice to Proceed is issued to the consultant by the Department.  They may be sent in MS Word format to Sandra Bell, Contracts Administrator at Sandra.Bell@dot.state.fl.us.

Progress reports must include the following information:

1.      Contract Number, Work Order Number and Title

2.      Work performed during the month

3.      Work to be performed in the following month

4.      Requested modifications (i.e., to funding, schedule, or scope) *see separate instructions for requesting approval of modifications

5.      An updated Exhibit “D” Progress Schedule. 

Draft Guidebook

The draft guidebook will be edited for grammar, clarity, organization, and readability prior to submission to the Department for technical approval.  The editor providing the review will sign a cover sheet attesting to such review prior to submission.  The provision for editorial services will be the Principal Investigator’s responsibility (the author or a designated party may perform the review).  It is expected that a well-written, high-quality report will be submitted.  Reports failing to meet this requirement will summarily be rejected.  The only changes allowable between the draft final report and the final report will be those changes requested by the Project Manager and the Research Center.

Final Guidebook

A minimum of 50 copies of the final guidebook will be delivered to: The Research Center, 605 Suwannee Street, MS 30, Tallahassee, FL 32399-0450.  A camera ready unbound original, and an electronic copy in MS Word format on CD no later than the end date of the RWPO.

One electronic copy in MS Word format of a Summary of the Final Guidebook to include the following four sections:  Background, Objectives and Supporting Tasks, Finding and Conclusions, and the Benefit of the Project.  The Summary shall be a separate document and should be approximately 500 words in length.

The Final Guidebook shall contain a completed Technical Report Documentation Form #F.1700.7, immediately after the title page.

The Final Guidebook shall contain a page after the Technical Report Documentation Form that states the following:

1.      The opinions, findings and conclusions expressed in this publication are those of the authors and not necessarily those of the State of Florida Department of Transportation, or the U.S. Department of Transportation.

2.      Prepared in cooperation with the State of Florida Department of Transportation and the U.S. Department of Transportation.

Copies of the Final Guidebook will be bound with a front and back cover that is acceptable to the Department.

IV.  Project Schedule

V.  Project Budget

VI. Equipment

No need for non-standard equipment is expected for conducting the proposed research.

VII. Travel

No travel is expected to achieve the project objectives.

VIII. Student Involvement

It is expected that this project will use a graduate student who is yet to be recruited and who will also work on other research projects.  The graduate student will be recruited among those with some experience working with census data and transit planning.  For this project, this graduate student will mainly work on identifying current applications of census data for transit planning and on illustrating the use of ACS data for these applications.  The hourly rate used in the budget includes in-state tuition costs.  Including tuition in the hourly rate makes sure that tuition will only be covered for the hours in which the student works on the project.

IX. Relationship to Other Research Projects

IX. Potential Benefits of the Project

Transit planning by transit agencies and other government agencies in Florida and throughout the nation relies heavily on the demographic data from the short-form count and the economic and journey-to-work data from the long-form survey of the decennial census for small-areas such as census block groups, census tracks, and traffic analysis zones.  While the short-form count will continue every 10 years, the long-form survey has been replaced by the American Community Survey (ACS) with largely the same questions.  The long-form survey has been mailed to a large annual sample of households (19 million in 2000) once a decade at the same time during a census year, but the ACS will be mailed monthly to a much smaller annual sample of 3 million households.  The ACS has been fully implemented since 2006, and the first product will arrive in August 2007.  While giving more current information, the ACS represents serious challenges for transit planning for a number of reasons: smaller samples; continuous measurement; and availability of demographic data from both the decennial census and ACS during the decennial census years, etc. 

Transit system planners are in urgent need of recent, small area socio-economic data to better understand and serve the needs of a changing population.  The ACS is a major departure from previous census activities and will be a boon, and bust, in terms of current, small area socio-economic data.  Currently, there is no existing guidance on how to use small area, continuous survey data for transit planning activities. The transit community needs to develop skills to use this new data source.

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 · www.nctr.usf.edu · Comments: webmaster@cutr.eng.usf.edu