Travel Behavior and Forecasting

All planning is based on planners’ beliefs about the future. In many cases, the most important (and most uncertain) aspects of the future relate to the behavior of the people for whom we are planning. For transportation planners, the effectiveness of our plans depend on how individuals and households will change their travel habits in response to them. How can we predict these kinds of changes, and what is the purpose of such predictions? Throughout the course, we will grapple with the question of whether a planner’s role is to accommodate future behavior or to influence it. 

In this course, you will learn how characteristics of the built environment (including housing density, jobs-housing balance, and the availability of transportation infrastructure) and demographic and life-cycle characteristics (including gender, race, income, and family formation) influence decisions of individuals and households about where and when to travel and by which transportation mode. You will also conduct your own analysis of these relationships for a specific region and apply what you learn to forecasting the demand for transportation infrastructure for a variety of possible futures.

Upon completion of this course, you will be able to:

  • Describe the current state of knowledge on the relationships among travel behavior, the built environment, and socio-demographic characteristics.
  • Examine how your own biases may influence your evaluation of and plans for transportation infrastructure.
  • Apply statistical models to traditional and emerging data sources to identify relationships among travel behavior, the built environment, and socio-demographic characteristics.
  • Develop a simple four-step travel demand model to estimate future travel demand within a region
  • Evaluate and communicate the uncertainty associated with travel demand forecasts, and engage with the ethical questions that forecast uncertainty creates.

While this course specifically engages with questions of forecasting and analysis through a transportation lens, the skills you learn in this class are relevant to all planning disciplines.