Smart Phone Application to Influence Travel Behavior (TRAC-IT Phase 3)

Document Type


Publication Date


Subject Area

infrastructure - track, planning - surveys, land use - smart growth, ridership - mode choice, ridership - growth, organisation - structures


Cellular telephones, Feedback, Global Positioning System, Mode choice, Public transit, Smart growth, Smart structures, Surveys, Tracking systems, Transit operating agencies, Travel behavior, Travel surveys


This three-phase research study focuses on using innovative technology to better understand and pattern household travel behavior for the purposes of educating, promoting, and encouraging households to utilize other alternatives to driving alone. The scope of Phase 1 called for preliminary development and testing of a portable unit consisting of a personal digital assistant (PDA), a global positioning system (GPS) device, and a wireless card, all-in-one unit nicknamed “TRAC-IT.” Phase 2 investigated the impact of the travel feedback advisory system on household travel behavior. The objective of Phase 3 was to determine the capabilities of GPS-enabled mobile phones in tracking person movements across modes (car, bike, bus, etc.) and over extended time periods (e.g., weekly versus daily). A basic requirement of the system was that the mobile device selected had to be a commercially available, low cost, off-the-shelf, and a widely used device. The device also had to be equipped with embedded GPS capabilities for highly accurate position data, able to communicate this information wirelessly back to a server, and able to receive user input allowing the manual entry of survey data by participants that cannot be extracted from GPS data. Wireless communication features of the mobile phone were envisioned to offer the user with real-time information that could influence their current travel behavior. The use of GPS-enabled mobile phones and an application such as TRAC-IT presents a unique opportunity to collect high-resolution individual travel behavior data that are instantly transferred to a server for analysis by transportation professionals. As more “indoor GPS” (high-sensitivity) chips become available in the mobile phone market, it is expected that GPS data from mobile phones that are more accurate will be collected and these should be able to obtain location fixes where current phones cannot. Based on the continuous research of new innovative approaches to travel data collection using location-based approaches, the TRAC-IT research team concluded that GPS-enabled mobile phones will continue to be a vital tool in travel behavior data collection.