Data from travel surveys are used to forecast demand, inform transportation investments, and craft urban policies. Because these data are so essential to shaping our transportation system, it is critical that hard-to-reach populations—such as low-income, minority, and transit-dependent people—have their travel behavior accurately reflected. The limited survey coverage may lead to inaccurate estimation of their transportation access and behavior, impede policy changes related to transportation equity, and ultimately contribute to a broader problem of racial misrepresentation in transportation data. The research team linked the 2010 Decennial Census population and housing data to an apparent stratified random sample of 6,107 household responses to the 2011 Oregon Household Activity Survey (OHAS) in the Portland metropolitan area. They found that the 2011 OHAS consistently over-represented White households and underrepresented Nonwhite households in the greater Portland area. Researchers identified census tracts where OHAS household response rates were low and Nonwhite racial composition was high. Those tracts were selected for in-depth qualitative research. Through local community organizations, the researchers recruited Portland-area residents with low incomes and/or that identify as racial or ethnic minorities to participate in six focus groups, with 57 participants in all. They discussed the Oregon Household Activity Survey’s travel diary, as well as their general interest or likelihood in participating in a household travel survey. Using this community input to critique existing survey methods, they identified alternative approaches that are more relevant to community members.
Photo by santypan/istockphoto