Benefit

A survey of travelers who used a multi-modal trip-planning website found that 40 percent of them decided to try at least one transit service that they do not normally use.

Evaluation of a Multimodal Trip Planning System (MMTPS) in Northeastern Illinois


May 2011
Chicago; Illinois; United States


Summary Information

This project included the development and evaluation of a Multimodal Trip Planning System (MMTPS) in the Chicago area of Northeastern Illinois. The MMTPS was envisioned as a planning tool designed to generate separate travel itineraries for driving only, transit only, and drive-to-transit traveler information to enable users to review alternate travel itineraries and compare relative costs and travel time savings. The ultimate goal to enable travelers to make smarter travel decisions, increase transit ridership, decreased traffic congestion, and improve air quality.

Project funding was awarded to the Regional Transportation Authority (RTA) to build the system between 2004 and 2010. The U.S. DOT facilitated an evaluation of technical and institutional issues, system impacts, and lessons learned.

The evaluation of the MMTPS project was originally designed to examine whether or not the development of a customized tool to integrate single-mode information from various local databases using existing standards would provide additional benefits beyond a single-mode trip planning system. However, in response to a changing trip planning environment, the RTA decided to use a commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) proprietary end-to-end traveler information product (Goroo.com) since the concept of a door-to-door multimodal trip planner incorporating seamless, comparative, multi-agency itineraries represented a significant innovation at the time. After a series of stakeholder trials, the Goroo was made available to the public in April 2009.

To accommodate the design change, the evaluation plan was revised to examine how multimodal trip planners can influence traveler behavior. Findings were primarily drawn from user surveys and interviews with project staff, partner agencies, and a peer advisory panel.

Interview questions focused primarily on technical issues, schedule, ITS standards, communication, marketing, and the trip-planning environment.

The user survey was an intercept survey that polled users planning trips on the Goroo.com website from November 19, 2009 through December 14, 2009. Feedback was collected on three key evaluation areas:
  • The characteristics and needs of door-to-door multimodal trip planner users to understand what types of travelers use the system
  • The types of trips for which a multi-modal trip planner is used
  • The effect on transit ridership and mode choice and factors that influenced or could influence users in their choices
In addition to the main intercept survey, a follow-up (Phase II) survey was administered to a subset of the respondents to further examine whether visitors used the itinerary information presented on MMTPS, and if so, whether the tool had an effect on mode choice. Overall, the main survey included 406 responses and the Phase II survey included 121 responses.

FINDINGS

Although circumstances surrounding the demonstration project resulted in changes to the project which limited an evaluation of before and after data, user surveys and interviews conducted during the project provided useful information regarding impacts on traveler behavior.

Documentation Reviews and Interviews

Market research reviewed during the project indicated that travel time information was important to travelers, but it was not the sole reason for mode choice. Researchers indicated that a well designed trip planning website should be more than just an itinerary-trip planner, but should also be able to effectively capture and convey real-world factors, such as gas prices and congestion information to make transit an increasingly attractive option. Researchers noted that there was an increased desire for real-time vehicle location information, predictions, and disruption notification information, particularly when travelers were en-route and using mobile devices.

Although trip planners were originally developed by the transit community, the demands and inputs needed to create a truly multi-modal trip planner were found to exceed the mission scope and expertise of a typical transit agency. Researchers concluded that the implementation of multi-modal trip planners are better suited for transportation organizations that are more multi-modal in focus.

Survey results

Researchers found that the Goroo trip-planning website was useful in helping newer residents establish efficient transportation habits as they increased their knowledge of the local transportation system. Goroo encouraged transit use among users who were undecided on what mode to take or did not intend to take transit at all. Nearly 40 percent of all respondents and 50 percent of suburban respondents reported using at least one transit service that they did not usually use.

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Source

Multimodal Trip Planner System Final Evaluation Report

Author: Biernbaum, Lee; Lydia Rainville; and Arlen Spiro

Published By: U.S. DOT Federal Transit Administration

Source Date: May 2011

Other Reference Number: Report No. FTA-MA-ITS-2011.1

URL: http://www.fta.dot.gov/documents/MMTPS_Final_Evaluation_05-24-2011(1).pdf

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Benefit ID: 2012-00794