Detailed Justification for Passenger Travel Statistics Program

Detailed Justification for Passenger Travel Statistics Program

What Do I Need To Know Before Reading This Justification?

The Passenger Travel Statistics Program is the primary way the USDOT collects data on the way Americans travel around their communities and around the country. This information is integral for the USDOT to base its very significant investment and policy decisions on sound science and rigorous analysis.

The Passenger Travel Statistics Program provides critical information for performance measures associated with the USDOT's strategic goals for safety, livable communities, state of good repair, and environmental sustainability.

What is The Request And What Will We Get For The Funds?

FY 2012 Travel Statistics Program
Budget Request

Program Activity FY 2010 Actual FY 2012 Request Change FY 2010-2012
Travel Statistics Program 2,947 3,064 117
Total1,2 $2,947 $3,064 $117

1 FY 2012 increase reflects reallocation of operating expenses.

2 The total funding includes salaries and administrative expenses and contract program.

Base Program

The Omnibus Household Survey has been conducted since 2000. Data are collected from over 1,000 nationally representative households and a target sample of 500 households in one of nine selected Metropolitan Statistical Areas. Survey questions cover a variety of areas to better understand the nation's satisfaction with the transportation system including items related to: mode use, journey to work, distracted driving, telecommuting, livable communities, security screening procedures at airports; and bicyclists and pedestrian attitudes and interests. As a result, transportation analysts are better able to identify areas for improvement, develop model parameters for forecasting and establish performance measures to evaluate them. For FY 2012 this survey is scheduled to be conducted on a reimbursable basis with other DOT modes.

The Intermodal Passenger Connectivity Database (IPCD) includes data on facility location and, upon completion, will include all scheduled passenger transportation modes that serve each of the estimated 7,000 passenger terminals in the U.S. This provides an integrated basis for measuring intermodal connectivity in the passenger transportation system, and the only consolidated database of passenger transportation facilities for all modes. The need for intermodal facility data is identified in the USDOT Strategic Plan as necessary for evaluating the state of good repair for our nation's highway system and bridges.

BTS conducts the National Census of Ferry Operators (NCFO) and updates the national ferry database. The NCFO was previously conducted in 2006, 2008 and 2010, and will begin another data collection in 2012 and provide updated information on the nation's ferry operations including information on ferry operators, their vessels, services, and routes.  This information will be used to update the BTS database of all ferry operations that provide domestic service within the U.S. and its territories.  This includes those operations that provide itinerant, fixed route, common carrier passenger, and/or vehicle ferry service. Information from this database are used in analysis related to emergency routes in the event of natural disasters, safety analysis related to aging vessels, and infrastructure needs in the transportation system. The Federal Transit Administration (FTA) and the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) are also interested in the data for potential use in formula grant funding.

BTS will continue to provide data users with comprehensive monthly and annual vehicle, container, passenger and pedestrian entry count information for all U.S. land and ferry ports of entry from Canada and Mexico. The data represents activity at the port level on the U.S.-Canadian and U.S.-Mexican land border and international ferry crossings. The data are used for monitoring North American Free Trade Agreement activity, for traffic analysis, and for data-driven resource allocations. These data are also used by the FHWA in calculating apportionments for border state infrastructure grants.

Key Actions:

  • Collect data from households (Omnibus Survey) covering issues including air, auto, intercity bus and intercity rail (on a reimbursable basis).
  • Maintain and increase the data coverage in the Intermodal Passenger Connectivity Database (IPCD).
  • Begin another data collection and provide updated data on the nation's ferry operations; including information on ferry operators, their vessels, services, and routes.

Key Outputs:

  • National Census of Ferry Operators results update the BTS database of all ferry operations that provide domestic service within the U.S. and its territories.  
  • Monthly and annual pedestrians, passengers and vehicle crossings including rail and intermodal crossings into the U.S. from Canada and Mexico (Border Crossing /Entry data) released via the RITA web site in a searchable database. Border Crossing/Entry data will also be made available via
  • Trends in Focus reports using key transportation data with context to timely and relevant travel-related issues.
  • Technical reports on travel data and information including data quality issues and data gaps.

Key Outcomes: Update intermodal data on passenger transportation (the Intermodal Connectivity Database) in FY 2012, including refinements to the newly added geographic information system (GIS) interface. This will provide decision makers with the information necessary for planning and investments.


Text Version

Intermodal Passenger Connectivity screen shot

  • Release of North American border crossings data by all transport modes for analysis, performance measurement, and congestion research to be used by transportation planners. This fills critical data gaps on the flow of people and vehicles between the U.S. and Mexico and the U.S. and Canada.
  • Federal, state and local governments, researchers, educational institutions, transportation decision makers and the general public have intermodal data to understand how people and vehicles move around and through the U.S.

What Is This Program?

Strategic Goals: Safety, environmental sustainability, state of good repair, livable communities, and economic competitiveness.

Purpose/Beneficiaries: Provide data on passenger travel facilities to public and private decision makers.

Partners: USDOT modal administrations, other government agencies, transportation RESEARCH community and the traveling public.

Description: The Passenger Travel Statistics Program collects, compiles and analyzes passenger travel data for all modes of transportation, and provides multi-modal, analytic reports and products.

Prior Year Accomplishments:

  • Updated 2010 NCFO data will support research and analysis, as well as updates to the national database of ferry operators.
  • Data on commuter rail stations will be completed and added to the Intermodal Passenger Connectivity Database (IPCD); a special report analyzing the data and comparing commuter rail connectivity with the other modes already analyzed will be issued; and data collection begun during FY 2010 on transit rail stations (heavy rail/subway and light rail) will be completed and added to the database.
  • An update to the Rural Access Report, which will include new data on inter-city bus stations, will be published. This will provide information to planners and decision-makers about transportation interconnectivity in rural areas.
  • The Border Crossing/Entry Data Program will organize and summarize the U.S. Customs and Border Protection international border crossing and entry data, including comprehensive monthly and annual vehicle, container, passenger and pedestrian entry count information for all U.S. land and ferry ports of entry from Canada and Mexico. This will provide information to decision-makers and planners to target transportation investments.
  • Analysis of travel trends with monthly vehicle-miles traveled data; short-run monthly VMT forecasts; analysis and estimation of local VMT; and modeling support and data development of FHWA's Multimodal Transportation Analysis Framework.

Why Is This Particular Program Necessary?

Travel data are critical components of the Intermodal Transportation Data, National Transportation Atlas Database, and Transportation Statistics Annual Report which were previously requested by Congress. Travel data are central to analyses of transportation projects required under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, the National Environmental Policy Act, and other federal legislation.

Travel data benefit the American public by assisting with attaining a safe, efficient, economical and sustainable transportation system. Information obtained on passenger travel is needed to identify characteristics of current use of the nation's transportation system, forecast future demand, analyze alternatives for multimodal investment in and development of the system, and assess the effects of federal legislation and federal/state regulations on the transportation system and its use. In addition, economic activity generated from people traveling represents one of the largest industrial sectors in the U.S.

Data relating to this sector are essential to government, private industry, and others responsible for policy formation and promotional activities in the general fields of travel and tourism. The lack of long distance travel data prohibits optimal decision making for transportation investments.

How Do You Know The Program Works?

Effective: BTS data are used to make transportation investment decisions and evaluate system performance. OST, modal administrations, research community, industry analysts and academics, and the general public exhibit high demand for BTS travel data and travel-related research.

Research: BTS routinely receives feedback from its stakeholders and customers through formal and informal means. This includes:

  • Customer outreach and listening sessions;
  • Input from the online survey (American Customer Satisfaction Index);
  • Data requests and downloads from the RITA web pages;
  • Participation and membership in customer/stakeholder organizations and associations.

Efficient: Transportation Research Board (TRB) panels have identified these travel data collection programs as core programs to understand passenger travel and demand.

Why Do We Want/Need To Fund The Program At The Requested Level?

History/Outyear Needs: FY 2010 $2.947M; FY 2012 $3.064M.