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Survey Retrieval

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The 15,033 surveys retrieved represented a wide range of ages, races, income levels, and geographies (see Locations Map). MassDOT worked with the 13 metropolitan planning organizations (MPOs) to survey each region in general proportion to their share of total households statewide.

MPO (with associated regional planning commission) Retrieval Target Recruits Retrievals % of Target Retrieval Rate
Boston MPO (MAPC) 7,200 12,688 7,661 106.4% 60.4%
Southeastern Massachusetts MPO (SRPEDD) 1,400 2,120 1,181 84.4% 55.7%
Pioneer Valley MPO (PVPC) 1,400 2,537 1,488 106.3% 58.7%
Central Massachusetts MPO (CMRPC) 1,200 1,956 1,148 95.7% 58.7%
Old Colony MPO (OCPC) 725 1,048 554 76.4% 52.9%
Merrimack Valley MPO (MVPC) 725 1,304 711 98.1%
Northern Middlesex MPO (NMCOG) 625 1,081 640 102.4%
Cape Cod MPO (CCC) 600 788 498 83%
Montachusett MPO (MRPC) 525 855 529 100.8%
Berkshire MPO (BRPC) 300 490 303 101% 61.8%
Franklin Transportation Planning Organization (FRCOG) 200 372 262 131% 70.4%
Martha's Vineyard MPO (MVC) 50 48 35 70% 72.9%
Nantucket MPO (NPEDC) 50 44 23 60% 52.7%
Statewide Total 15,000 25,331 15,033 100.2% 59.3%

Summary of Surveys Completed for each MPO Region


Some areas proved more difficult to survey than others, including seasonal recreational areas, lower-income areas, and areas with greater proportions of minorities and young people. To help address these challenges, a stratified sampling approach was used, which divided the survey universe into smaller groups and then sampled randomly within each group. This approach allowed oversampling of certain areas in order to capture the diversity of the population as effectively as possible.


Residential and employment density was also considered in developing a sampling plan for survey retrieval.  For each region, a combined density measure of (persons plus jobs)/square mile was used to refine the retrieval target, separating each region into dense and non-dense halves with equal population (this map). For data analysis, this approach recognizes that the densest parts of Boston, for example, and the associated travel patterns and tendencies, are likely not the same as the densest parts of Pittsfield. Similarly, there are also likely differences in travel patterns between “rural” areas in metropolitan Boston versus rural areas in western Massachusetts.

The following excerpts from “frequently asked questions” during the survey further explain various details and considerations of the retrieval process:

How long will the survey take?

While this is an extensive survey, we have worked very hard to make every minute count! The initial phone interview to screen a household and collect demographic data usually takes between 15 and 20 minutes and will depend on the number of household members and the number of vehicles you own.  If you agree to participate, you will then be asked to agree to an assigned travel day.  If you agree with that date or select another day with the interviewer, then NuStats will send your household a travel diary for each household member and instructions on how to fill out the diary on your travel day.

An interviewer calls each household the day before the scheduled travel day to help remind the household of the travel day and to answer any questions.  This is a five-minute call.

Your travel day will begin at 3:00 AM and last for 24 hours. Don’t worry; we don’t expect anyone to get up at 3:00 AM to fill out the diary!  You will be asked to simply record all trips as they would normally occur throughout the day. If you record as you travel throughout the day, the recording time will be minimal.  If you record all your trips at the end of the day, it may take additional time to recall each and every trip.

The day after the travel day, an interviewer calls to collect the household’s results.  Depending on how many household members you have, this will take from 20 to 30 minutes.  After the data is collected over the phone, the household is asked to mail the diaries to NuStats’ data collection partner, DataSource, in San Marcos, Texas, for processing.

If there are any questions about your responses in the travel diary, you will receive a follow-up phone call.  This follow-up call should not take any more than a few minutes.

Can I participate even if I don’t get a recruitment call from a phone interviewer?

Due to the need to gather statistically accurate information that represents the study area, we can only include randomly chosen households.

Why do you want to know about the characteristics of people in the household?

We ask a number of questions about households and the people in them because we are not only trying to describe travel patterns but also to understand why they occur.  By collecting household characteristics along with travel patterns, we are able to better understand why people travel the way they do and this enables us to estimate future travel patterns as the population grows and changes.

Why is the travel and activity log so important?

Past experience has shown that if people do not use a log to record their travel and activities, they forget key details about what they’ve done and the places they’ve been.  It is really important that all trips, even short stops in the evening, and all activities no matter how routine are captured in the survey.

How much detail is needed on each place I visit?

Detailed location information is an important part of analyzing travel patterns.  Providing detailed information such as the bus stop/train station, street address, town, zip code, cross street and nearby landmark will enable us to see which streets, highways, and transit services are being used.  When you visit a place and record it in your travel diary, providing as much detail as possible about where the place is, will reduce the amount of information that we would need to clarify with you, and ultimately make the effort less time-consuming for everyone (including you!).

What if I don’t drive a car?

We are interested in all types of travel – by train, bus, ferry, walk, bicycle, car, truck…any means you use to get around.

What if I don’t travel very much?

Some people feel that just because all they did during their “travel period” was visit a friend or go to the post office, this information would not be important.  In fact, these people, as well as those who don’t travel at all during their travel period, are just as important as someone who did.  Remember that the purpose of the survey is to get a complete picture of travel patterns throughout the state.  So during your travel period, we’d like to know even if you didn’t travel at all.

What if I traveled out of Massachusetts during my travel period?

If you travel out of the state during your assigned travel period, you will be asked to tell us the details of all your travel and activities completed within the state and where you first went when you left the state (for example, commuting to a job in Providence or Nashua, or a trip to the airport and then a flight to Chicago).  If you return to the state during the travel period, you will be asked to tell us about your travel and activities once you’re back in Massachusetts.

What if out-of-the-ordinaryevents happen during my assigned travel period that changes my travel?

On any given day, many households across the state have a “non-ordinary” travel day.  But collectively, all these variations – less travel, more travel, and different travel – have a major effect on the overall travel patterns generated by thousands of households. So even if the assigned travel period turns out to be out-of-the-ordinary for you, or for anyone in your family, it is important that you still record your travel in the travel logs for the assigned period.  In statistical terms, accounting for these variations produces survey results that better represent the true travel picture overall.

Will any of the information collected be useful for environmental purposes?

Yes.  The survey contains questions about the vehicle(s) your households and how those vehicles are used during the travel period.  It is important to know what type of vehicles are being used, which helps to estimate fuel consumption and greenhouse gas emissions resulting from daily travel patterns.  Improving air quality by reducing vehicle emissions is an important part of transportation planning and decision-making.  The survey will also ask about your walking or bicycling to/from various locations and activities.  This information may help to improve infrastructure that would support more non-motorized trips to reduce carbon emissions and the need for petroleum-based transportation.

Why do you want to know about my activities?

When transportation planners can better understand how people’s activities are arranged and how travel plans are made, it helps them to make better recommendations for improvements that could ultimately make it easier for you to get where you’re going.

What if I don’t feel comfortable answering some of the questions?

We promise strict confidentiality of all the information collected but, of course, you may decline to answer any question.  Your privacy will be respected.

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