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Agency Information Collection Activities: Request for Comments for Periodic Information Collection

American Government Special Collections Reference Desk

American Government

Agency Information Collection Activities: Request for Comments for Periodic Information Collection

Michael Howell
Federal Highway Administration
July 31, 2015

[Federal Register Volume 80, Number 147 (Friday, July 31, 2015)]
[Pages 45702-45704]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2015-18795]



Federal Highway Administration

[Docket No. FHWA-2015-0007]

Agency Information Collection Activities: Request for Comments 
for Periodic Information Collection

SUMMARY: The FHWA has forwarded the information collection request 
described in this notice to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) 
for approval of a new information collection. We published a Federal 
Register Notice with a 60-day public comment period on this information 
collection on February 19, 2015. We are required to publish this notice 
in the Federal Register by the Paperwork Reduction Act of 1995.

DATES: Please submit comments by August 31, 2015.

ADDRESSES: You may send comments within 30 days to the Office of 
Information and Regulatory Affairs, Office of Management and Budget, 
725 17th Street NW., Washington, DC 20503, Attention DOT Desk Officer. 
You are asked to comment on any aspect of this information collection, 
including: (1) Whether the proposed collection is necessary for the 
FHWA's performance; (2) the accuracy of the estimated burden; (3) ways 
for the FHWA to enhance the quality, usefulness, and clarity of the 
collected information; and (4) ways that the burden could be minimized, 
including the use of electronic technology, without reducing the 
quality of the collected information. All comments should include the 
Docket number FHWA-2015-0007.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT:  Adella Santos, 202-366-5021, NHTS 
Program Manager, Federal Highway Administration, Office of Policy, 1200 
New Jersey Avenue SE., Room E83-426, Washington, DC 20590, Monday 
through Friday, except Federal holidays.

    Title: 2015 National Household Travel Survey (NHTS).
    Type of Request: Renewal request for periodic information 
collection requirement.
    Background: Title 23, United States Code, section 502 authorizes 
the USDOT to carry out advanced research and transportation research to 
measure the performance of the surface transportation systems in the 
US, including the efficiency, energy use, air quality, congestion, and 
safety of the highway and intermodal transportation systems. The USDOT 
is charged with the overall responsibility to obtain current 
information on national patterns of travel, which establishes a data 
base to better understand travel behavior, evaluate the use of 
transportation facilities, and gauge the impact of the USDOT's policies 
and programs.
    The NHTS is the USDOT's authoritative nationally representative 
data source for daily passenger travel. This inventory of travel 
behavior reflects travel mode (e.g., private vehicles, public 
transportation, walk and bike) and trip purpose (e.g., travel to work, 
school, recreation, personal/family trips) by U.S. household residents. 
Survey results are used by federal and state agencies to monitor the 
performance and adequacy of current facilities and infrastructure, and 
to plan for future needs.
    The collection and analysis of national transportation data has 
been of critical importance for nearly half a century. Previous surveys 
were conducted in 1969, 1977, 1983, 1990, 1995, 2001, and 2009. The 
current survey will be the eighth in this series, and allow 
researchers, planners, and officials at the state and federal levels to 
monitor travel trends.
    Data from the NHTS are widely used to support research needs within 
the USDOT, and State and local agencies, in addition to responding to 
queries from Congress, the research community and the media on 
important issues. Current and recent topics of interest include:
     Travel to work patterns by transportation mode for 
infrastructure improvements and congestion reduction,
     Access to public transit, paratransit, and rail services 
by various demographic groups,
     Measures of travel by mode to establish exposure rates for 
risk analyses,
     Support for Federal, State, and local planning activities 
and policy evaluation,
     Active transportation by walk and bike to establish the 
relationship to public health issues,
     Vehicle usage for energy consumption analysis,
     Traffic behavior of specific demographic group such as 
Millennials and the aging population.
    Within the USDOT, the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) holds 
responsibility for technical and funding coordination. The National 
Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), Federal Transit 
Administration (FTA), and the Bureau of Transportation Statistics (BTS) 
are also primary data users, and have historically participated in 
project planning and financial support.

Proposed Data Acquisition Methodology

    NHTS data are collected from a stratified random sample of 
households that represent a broad range of geographic and demographic 
characteristics. Letters and a brief household survey are sent to 
selected households requesting some basic demographic and contact 
information and inviting them to participate in the survey. The 
recruitment surveys are returned in business reply envelopes to the 
survey contractor.
    Participating households are subsequently sent a package containing 
travel logs for each member of the household age 5 and older. The 
household is assigned to record their travel on a specific day, and 
asked to note every trip taken during a 24 hour period. Based upon 
their preferences, the travel information is then reported either 
through the use of a survey Web site, or through a telephone interview.

[[Page 45703]]

    Reminders are sent periodically to households who do not respond 
within the expected timeframe. Monetary incentives are included in each 
recruitment package, and are provided in increasing amounts for all 
households that complete the survey.
    The survey will collect data during an entire 12 month period so 
that all 365 days of the year including weekends and holidays are 
accounted for. A total of 26,000 households will comprise the national 
sample for the 2015 survey. As described below, changes in the 
establishment of the sampling frame, the promotion of participation, 
and in data retrieval techniques are planned, as compared to previous 
surveys, to improve statistical precision, enhance response rates, and 
increase survey efficiency.
    Issues Related to Sampling. In previous years, the household sample 
was identified using random digit dialing techniques. Today, only 59 
percent \1\ have a landline telephone in the home (down from 75% during 
the 2009 NHTS) while over 80 percent of U.S. households have access to 
the Internet.\2\ This survey will leverage this shift in technology, in 
particular the move away from home telephone usage, to structure a 
research design that uses web, mail, and telephone data collection 

    \1\ Blumberg, S.J., and Luke, J.V. (2014).Wireless substitution: 
Early release of estimates from the National Health Interview 
Survey, July-December 2013. National Center for Health Statistics. 
Available from http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/nhis.htm.
    \2\ Source: U.S. Census Bureau, Current Population Survey, 
Select Years, Internet Release date: January 2014.

    The revised methodological approach starts with a national address-
based sample (ABS), a change from the telephone-based random digit 
dialing (RDD) sample design used in recent NHTS efforts, while also 
incorporating core data elements that have been part of the NHTS since 
    The survey sample will be drawn from the ABS frame maintained by 
Marketing Systems Group (MSG). It originates from the U.S. Postal 
Service (USPS) Computerized Delivery Sequence file (CDS), and is 
updated on a monthly basis. MSG also provides the ability to match some 
auxiliary variables (e.g., race/ethnicity, education, household income) 
to a set of sampled addresses. MSG geocodes their entire ABS frame, so 
block-, block group-, and tract-level characteristics from the 
Decennial Census and the American Community Survey (ACS) may be 
appended to addresses and used for sampling and/or data collection 
    Sample Size. A sample size of 26,000 households will be included in 
the national sample. Assuming response rates of 30 percent for the 
recruitment stage, 65 percent for the retrieval stage, and a residency 
rate of 89 percent for sampled addresses, a total of 149,813 sampled 
addresses will be required to attain the targeted 26,000 responding 
    Stratification. This survey produces state-level estimates as well 
as national estimates. Assuming equal costs and population variances 
across states, the most efficient design for national estimates is one 
in which the sample is allocated to the states in proportion to the 
size of the civilian, noninstitutionalized population in each state, 
and the most efficient design for state-level estimates is one in which 
equal sample sizes are allocated to all states. Various allocation 
options for the national sample are being considered in order to arrive 
at a final allocation for the NHTS national sample.
    With the ABS approach, identifying targeted areas (e.g., states) 
that correspond to those for which estimates can be developed from the 
NHTS data are straightforward. Addresses are definitively linked to 
states, so state-level estimation is routine. Geocoding and GIS 
processing can be used to link addresses to counties in a highly 
reliable fashion. There can be some ambiguity for addresses that are 
P.O. boxes or are listed as rural route addresses. These can be handled 
in a routine manner with a set of well-defined rules as such addresses 
will represent only a small proportion of a state's population. Thus, 
no important issues arise in the definition of areas with an ABS sample 
design that relies on mail for data collection, as is the case with the 
proposed approach.
    Assignments for recording travel data by sampled households will be 
equally distributed across all days to ensure a balanced day of week 
distribution. The sample (of recruitment letters to households) will be 
released periodically through a process that will control the balance 
of travel days by month.

Data Collection Methods

    An updated approach to enhancing survey response has been 
developed. This includes providing progressive monetary incentives, and 
using a mail-out/mail-back recruitment survey. This recruitment survey 
is designed to be relevant, aesthetically pleasing, and elicit 
participation by including topics of importance to the respondent. Upon 
returning the completed recruitment survey, each household member will 
be provided with personalized travel logs by mail, and offered the 
option of completing the retrieval survey by Web using a unique 
personal identification number (PIN) or telephone interview.

Information Proposed for Collection

    Recruitment. The survey will begin with mailing the sampled 
households a short recruitment survey designed to collect key household 
information (e.g. enumeration of household members), additional contact 
information (e.g. email address and telephone number). This recruitment 
survey includes some engaging travel-related opinion or experience 
questions considered to be highly relevant to the survey and 
interesting to respondents. The initial survey will be accompanied by a 
letter from the USDOT, and a Business Reply Envelope.
    In the first mail contact, each sampled address will receive a $2 
cash incentive. The second mail contact will include the travel log 
package sent to each recruited household and a $5 cash incentive and a 
promise of an additional $20 for successfully submitting their travel 
logs. The incentives paid will be tracked at each of the three levels 
    To support the mail recruitment approach, the survey contractor 
will provide a toll-free number on survey materials and will assist the 
recruited participant to provide the required information by telephone 
if requested to do so by the participant. A survey Web site will be 
established for potential respondents who want to check on the 
authenticity of the survey or find out more information. This Web site 
will also serve as the portal to the survey.
    All returned recruitment surveys will be processed using commercial 
off-the-shelf software (COTS) technology. All data collected in the 
recruitment survey will be used to populate the household record in the 
survey database. As part of the non-response protocol, non-responding 
households may also be provided the opportunity to recruit by Web. If 
respondents call the help desk or use the Web to complete, their 
responses are collected in the same survey database.
    The mail back recruitment approach described here has been tested 
and found to be successful in several surveys funded by the Federal 
Government (e.g., the National Crime Victimization Survey); these 
surveys have proven this method can be implemented with large sample 
sizes covering vast geographic regions. This approach has been 
developed in response to declining recruitment rates in recent studies.

[[Page 45704]]

    Retrieval. The NHTS data will be collected from respondents either 
from self-reporting via the web, or from professionally trained 
interviewers using a computer-assisted telephone interviewing (CATI) 
system. Either approach will be based upon a single database that 
allows for sophisticated branching and skip patterns to enhance data 
retrieval by asking only those questions that are necessary and 
appropriate for the individual participant. Look-up tables are included 
to assist with information such as vehicle makes and models. The Google 
map UI is used to assist in identifying specific place names and 
locations. The location data for the participant's home, workplace, or 
school are stored and automatically inserted in the dataset for trips 
after the first report. Household rostering is a list of all vehicles 
and persons in the household that allows a trip to be reported from one 
household member and can include another household member who travel 
together to be inserted into the record for the second person. This 
automatic insert of information reduces the burden of the second 
respondent to be queried about a trip already reported by the initial 
    Data range, consistency and edit checks are automatically 
programmed to reduce reporting error, survey length, and maintain the 
flow of information processing. Data cross checks also help reduce the 
burden by ensuring that the reporting is consistent within each trip.
    Data retrieval is based upon materials provided to participants as 
shown below.

Travel Log Materials

    Travel Log Packet. The travel log packet will include a letter, an 
exemplar log, and personalized travel logs for each age eligible person 
in the household, and will be sent using first class postage in a 6'' x 
9'' envelope. The envelopes will be branded to match the letterhead 
used for the invitation letter. The second respondent incentive will be 
included with the travel logs. This $5 cash incentive is expected to 
serve as a ``good faith'' incentive to encourage completion of the 
retrieval survey.
    Travel Log Letter. A household letter will be included in the 
travel log packet. The letter will further familiarize the participants 
with the travel recording stage, identify the households' travel date 
and provide details about when and how to complete the retrieval 
survey. The letter will also remind participants about the final $20 
household incentive. Like the invitation letter, the travel log letter 
will be branded.
    Travel Logs. A personalized travel log will be provided for each 
household member (ages 5 and older). The logs are intended to be a 
memory jogger to guide accurate data collection and aid in the 
reporting of each place visited on the travel day.
    Exemplar Log. Participants will be provided with an exemplar log 
with the instructions for recording the details about the places 
visited on the travel day.
    All Web and computer assisted telephone interview (CATI) 
instruments will be reviewed for section 508 compliance using the rules 
specified in sections 1194.22--`Web-based intranet and internet 
information and applications' and 1194.23--`Telecommunications 
products.' All materials will be available in both English and Spanish 
language forms. Spanish translations will be developed using industry 
standards and will apply reverse-translation protocols.

Estimated Burden Hours for Information Collection

    Frequency: This collection will be conducted every 5-7 years.
    Respondents. A stratified random sample of 26,000 households across 
the 50 states and the District of Columbia will be included in the 
survey. Household will include an average of 2.5 members for a total of 
65,000 individual respondents to the main survey.
    Estimated Average Burden per Response. It will take approximately 5 
minutes per household member to complete the recruitment data form, and 
20 minutes to complete the retrieval survey. This results in a total of 
25 minutes per household member.
    Estimated Total Annual Burden Hours. It is estimated that a total 
of 65,000 persons will be included in the survey. This would result in 
approximately 27,083 hours of support for this data collection effort.

Public Comments Invited

    You are asked to comment on any aspect of this information 
collection, including: (1) Whether the proposed collection of 
information is necessary for the USDOT's performance, including whether 
the information will have practical utility; (2) the data acquisition 
methods; (3) the accuracy of the USDOT's estimate of the burden of the 
proposed information collection; (4) the types of data being acquired; 
(5) ways to enhance the quality, usefulness, and clarity of the 
collected information; and (6) ways that the burden could be minimized 
without reducing the quality of the collected information. The agency 
will summarize and/or include your comments in the request for OMB's 
clearance of this information collection.

    Authority: The Paperwork Reduction Act of 1995; 44 U.S.C. 
chapter 35, as amended; and 49 CFR 1.48.

    Issued on: July 28, 2015.
Michael Howell,
Information Collection Officer, Federal Highway Administration.
[FR Doc. 2015-18795 Filed 7-30-15; 8:45 am]

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