Office of Operations
21st Century Operations Using 21st Century Technologies 

Complete Trip Data Factsheet

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August 2022

PDF Version [2 MB]


The Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act of 2012 (MAP-21) ushered in a performance-based approach to the Federal-Aid Highway Program. During the development of MAP-21 system performance measures (the third performance management rule, sometimes referred to as PM3 or 23 CFR 490.500-490.800), the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) received thousands of comments, including some asking for multimodal measures that quantify person movements across all modes rather than vehicle movements.

In response to these comments, FHWA completed the Multimodal System Performance Measures Research and Application study and produced an Innovation and Research Plan (FHWA-HOP-18-085). The fundamental finding of the research was that multimodal performance is difficult if not impossible to determine without complete person-trip information; i.e., data that tracks trips across the multimodal network from beginning to end. At the time of the original study, complete person-trip information was not available.

Many years later, follow-on research completed by FHWA in the spring of 2022 found that complete person-trip data across all modes are now available from private vendors. Looking beyond performance measurement, the research also identifies potential applications for complete-trip data within transportation planning and management as well as operations.

What is Complete Person Trip Data and Who Provides It?

Complete trip data track individual trips across the network from the point of origin to the destination. Time stamped, geographically positioned “pings” from cell phones and GPS devices track the movement of devices carried by people over time. These pings are associated with transportation network segments (roads, sidewalks, bus-routes, rail lines, etc.) and organized into discrete trips. Figure 1 illustrates how raw data are organized for a complex auto, transit, and walking trip.

A combination illustration and details table of a complete multimodel person trip. The trip begins going from point A to point B via auto for 7.1 min at 23.9 mph. The trip continues from point B to point C via rail for 4.5 miles at 14.8 mph then goes from point C to point D via bus for 11.3 minutes at 15.6 mph. The trip from point D to point E is also traveled via bus for 3 minutes at 14 mph. The trip concludes with a trip from point E to point F by walking, which takes 5.5 minutes at 2 mph. The total trip time is 31.4 minutes.

Source: FHWA.

Figure 1. Illustration. Multimodal trip.

Agencies interested in acquiring complete trip data should consider including the following fields in a data requirements request (table 1), as well as requiring the data to be privacy protected and anonymized.

Table 1. Complete trip data fields.
Field Description
Trips trip_id Unique identifier for each trip
tour_id The travel tour in which the trip occurred
device_id The identifier relating trip records to a device (for imputing traveler characteristics)
mode The travel mode by which the trip was made
origin x, y coordinates of origin
o_activity The reason the traveler was at the origin location (home, work, shopping, etc.)
destination x, y coordinates of destination
d_activity The reason the traveler went to the destination (home, work, shopping, etc.)
trip_start Date/time trip began
trip end Date/time trip ended
duration The elapsed time of the trip
length Distance of the trip
Paths trip_id Unique identifier for each trip
link_id Unique identifier for each link traversed
link_entry Date/time stamp
link_exit Date/time stamp
link_sequence Order this link was traversed in the trip
link_time Elapsed time on the link
link_distance Distanced traveled on the link
link_entry_ Accumulated trip distance when
distance entering the link
link_exit_ Accumulated trip distance when
distance exiting the link
Devices device_id Unique identifier for each device
traveler_attrs Any relevant traveler attributes collected during a trip is imputed to the device

How Can Complete Person Trip Data be Summarized and Used?

Based on surveys of private vendors, complete person trip data sets can provide a rich set of information on where trips begin and end, the times trips are made, and the paths they travel. The complete trip data as defined in this factsheet can provide insights into system performance monitoring (as envisioned by the original research), transportation planning, and transportation system management and operations. Examples include:

Post-mounted dynamic speed feedback sign indicates the speed of the driver approaching the sign is 45 mph.
Source: Source: Getty Images, Inc.

Transportation planning – contextualize the performance of network segments (e.g., how will lower speeds resulting from a complete street improvement impact door to door travel times across all trips currently using the segment?)

A bus approaching an intersection in an urban area
Source: Source: Getty Images, Inc.

Corridor studies – evaluate network productivity trade-offs among modal options (e.g., how does converting an arterial lane to a dedicated bus rapid transit lane influence the overall productivity of the corridor?)

A light-rail trolley in an urban area.
Source: Source: Getty Images, Inc.

Transportation system management and operations – determine network resilienceacross modes (e.g., to whatextent do travelers takeadvantage of alternative travelpaths and/or modes when amajor roadway is closed duringpeak periods?)

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