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May 2 -- The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT), invites public comments to OMB by June 3, 2024 regarding the 2024 Next Generation National Household Travel Survey (NextGen NHTS).

Title 23, United States Code, Section 502 authorizes the USDOT to carry out advanced research and transportation research to measure the performance of the surface transportation systems in the US, including the efficiency, energy use, air quality, congestion, and safety of the highway and intermodal transportation systems. The USDOT is charged with the overall responsibility to obtain current information on national patterns of travel, which establishes a data base to better understand travel behavior, evaluate the use of transportation facilities, and gauge the impact of the USDOT's policies and programs.

The NHTS is the USDOT's authoritative nationally representative data source for daily passenger travel. This inventory of travel behavior reflects travel mode (e.g., private vehicles, public transportation, walk and bike) and trip purpose (e.g., travel to work, school, recreation, personal/family trips) by U.S. household residents. Survey results are used by federal and state agencies to monitor the performance and adequacy of current facilities and infrastructure, and to plan for future needs.

The collection and analysis of national transportation data has been of critical importance for more than half a century. Previous surveys were conducted in 1969, 1977, 1983, 1990, 1995, 2001, 2009, 2017 and 2022. The current survey will be the tenth in this series, and allow researchers, planners, and officials at the state and federal levels to monitor travel trends.

Data from the NHTS are widely used to support research needs within the USDOT, and State and local agencies, in addition to responding to queries from Congress, the research community and the media on important issues. Current and recent topics of interest include:

-- Travel to work patterns by transportation mode for infrastructure improvements and congestion reduction,
-- Access to public transit, paratransit, and rail services by various demographic groups,
-- Measures of travel by mode to establish exposure rates for risk analyses,
-- Support for Federal, State, and local planning activities and policy evaluation,
-- Active transportation by walk and bike to establish the relationship to public health issues,
-- Vehicle usage for energy consumption analysis,
-- Traffic behavior of specific demographic groups such as Millennials, Gen Z, and the aging population.

Within the USDOT, the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) holds responsibility for technical and funding coordination. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), Federal Transit Administration (FTA), and the Bureau of Transportation Statistics (BTS) are also primary data users and have historically participated in project planning and financial support.

NHTS data are collected from a stratified random sample of households that represent a broad range of geographic and demographic characteristics. Letters and postcards are sent to selected households requesting some basic demographic and contact information and inviting them to participate in the diary survey. The recruitment survey is completed on the study website.

Households who complete the recruitment survey are subsequently invited to complete a diary survey. All household members aged 5 and older are eligible. The household is assigned to record their travel on a specific day and asked to note every trip taken during a 24-hour period. Based upon their preferences, the travel information is then reported through a survey website, a smartphone app., or through a telephone interview.

Reminders are sent periodically to households who do not respond within the expected timeframe. Monetary incentives are provided in increasing amounts for all households that complete the survey.

The survey will collect data during an entire 12-month period so that all 365 days of the year including weekends and holidays are accounted for. A total of 7,500 households will comprise the national sample for the 2024 survey.

The sampling design reflects the U.S. household trends of decreasing landline telephone ownership and increasing access to the internet. The 2024 NextGen NHTS will leverage this shift in technology, in particular the move away from home telephone usage, to structure a research design that uses mail, web, smartphone app. and telephone data collection modes. The methodological approach starts with a national address-based sample (ABS).

The survey sample will be drawn from the ABS frame maintained by Marketing Systems Group (MSG). It originates from the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) Computerized Delivery Sequence file (CDS) and is updated on a monthly basis. MSG also provides the ability to match some auxiliary variables (e.g., race/ethnicity, education, household income) to a set of sampled addresses. MSG geocodes their entire ABS frame, so block-, block group-, and tract-level characteristics from the Decennial Census and the American Community Survey (ACS) may be appended to addresses and used for sampling and/or data collection purposes.

Completed surveys will be obtained from a nationally representative sample of 7,500 households. Assuming response rates of 26 percent for the recruitment stage, 60 percent at the diary stage, and a residency rate of 92 percent for sampled addresses, a total of 52,258 sampled addresses will be required to attain the targeted 7,500 responding households.

The sample will be stratified by Census Division and urban/rural classification (18 strata total). The target sample size (of responding households) will then be initially allocated among the strata according to the proportion of addresses falling in the stratum determined by the counts of addresses from the American Community Survey (ACS).

With the ABS approach, identifying targeted areas that correspond to those for which estimates can be developed from the NHTS data are straightforward. Geocoding and GIS processing can be used to link addresses to states and counties in a highly reliable fashion. There can be some ambiguity for addresses that are P.O. boxes or are listed as rural route addresses. These can be handled in a routine manner with a set of well-defined rules as such addresses will represent only a small proportion of the population. Thus, no important issues arise in the definition of areas with an ABS sample design that relies on mail for initial contact, as is the case with the proposed approach.

Assignments for recording travel data by sampled households will be equally distributed across all days to ensure a balanced day-of-week distribution. The sample (of recruitment letters to households) will be released periodically through a process that will control the balance of travel days by month.

NextGen NHTS: https://nhts.ornl.gov/
FHWA submission to OMB: https://www.reginfo.gov/public/do/PRAViewICR?ref_nbr=202403-2125-003 Click on IC List for survey instruments, View Supporting Statement for technical documentation. Submit comments through this site.
FRN: https://www.federalregister.gov/d/2024-09516
 
For AEA members wishing to submit comments, "A Primer on How to Respond to Calls for Comment on Federal Data Collections" is available at https://www.aeaweb.org/content/file?id=5806

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