How PAG’s employee travel surveys help the region’s planning efforts

It is easy to wrap one’s head around the meaning of travel reduction. Encouraging commuters to cut down on solo car trips to work, in turn, reduces vehicle emissions and improves our air quality. But perhaps it’s less obvious that Pima Association of Government’s Travel Reduction Program also helps with broader regional planning.

Employee travel surveys help the region's planning efforts.
Pima Association of Governments’ Travel Reduction Program conducts yearly employee surveys to gather important data that is used for regional planning efforts.

The program engages the region’s major employers to participate and administer an annual TRP employee survey. This survey provides a wide range of important regional transportation data.

It begs the question: who uses the data and what is it used for?

In the broadest sense, the anonymous TRP employee survey gathers valuable data that guides the region’s transportation planning efforts to reduce traffic congestion, energy consumption, the cost of transportation and air pollution. The program also is a cornerstone of workforce recruitment and retention, with the goal of improving job access, mobility options and quality of life for the region.

How employers use the data

The information provided by participants of the annual TRP employee survey generates a roadmap for a TRP employer’s HR department to analyze commuting patterns within their workforce and suggest commute options that are feasible for its employees.

The better the response rate, the more statistically significant the data is. Employers receive heat maps and other data at the end of the survey process which illustrates options for the employer worksite. This information allows a business’s HR team to evaluate if vanpooling, carpooling or transit are good choices for their workforce.

How the data helps the region

TRP data is the critical piece of the puzzle that plays a major role in PAG’s modeling work to support regional transportation planning efforts. The TRP survey data informs the model with employee mode choices, types of vehicles driven, miles traveled, and what industry and type of jobs are prevalent in the region.

PAG has begun to shift to a new activity-based model, and the TRP employee survey data is an essential calibration/validation input for the model. PAG can model travelers’ commute travel time/distance, work-from-home ratio, commute departure/arrival time, and many other travel behaviors more accurately by referencing numerous summary statistics estimated from the TRP employee survey data analysis. A large sample size and higher update frequency makes the TRP Employee Survey data more reliable to understand the behaviors affecting the regional traffic system.

The models are important for long-term transportation planning efforts. The more data and greater detail gives planners a better understanding of finer-resolution travel behavior that is more representative of travel in the region.

The model tells the story of how people move so that transportation plans can be developed to support growth and vitality in the region. In addition, the TRP is rooted in the Clean Air Act of 1970. Public health concerns are linked to air quality and planning efforts aimed to ensure planned growth addresses health, safety and quality of life.

Additional planning efforts focus on reducing congestion and designing the flow of travel. The model can forecast new mobility impacts and changing travel options and behaviors.

The state and others rely on the information, too

The TRP data collected from the annual employee survey is provided to the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality (ADEQ) monthly to track how many pounds of vehicle emissions are saved or offset. The monthly and annual numbers are submitted as part of the statewide effort to deploy transportation control measures to improve air quality and protect the community. Metrics are compared year over year to look for opportunities and identify trends in the commute arena. As communities navigate economic recovery after the pandemic, choices about how and where employees perform their work will be made. TRP data will be a guide revealing trends, operational pivots, and changes in how employees access and use mobility options in the region.