MTC’s Transit Passenger Survey, Bay Area Travel Study and Snapshot Survey collect trip and traveler data that is not readily available from other sources.
MTC collects and analyzes data to update its regional travel model, ultimately informing agency studies and plans, including Plan Bay Area 2050. Other applications of these data include demographic analyses and equity studies, regional partner agency projects, and academic research.
Whenever possible, MTC takes advantage of existing data sources, like those from the U.S. Census Bureau, Bay Area transit agencies, the California Department of Finance, the Bureau of Labor Statistics, real estate parcel data, location and transportation network data and more.
For some resource needs, the best option is to collect data directly from Bay Area travelers.
Transit Passenger Survey
The Transit Passenger Survey focuses on the transit-riding population within the Bay Area and reveals details about riders and their transit trips.
Data from all 27 of the Bay Area’s transit agencies creates a picture of the Bay Area’s public transit users. Within each completed program cycle, all operators are surveyed roughly every 5-7 years, and results are updated as new data become available.
The purpose of the Transit Passenger Survey is to:
- Collect demographic details about riders – including milestone location data for their trips – which is used to support future transportation planning efforts
- Fulfill the data collection requirements of the Title VI of the 1964 Civil Rights Act
Regional Transit Passenger Snapshot Survey
Unlike the above-described approach to data collection, which takes 5-7 years to complete, the Regional Transit Passenger Snapshot survey will take only approximately a year to complete. The Snapshot Survey will collect fewer samples, will not include every transit route, and will feature a simpler survey questionnaire. All of these simplifications will allow data collection for the entire region to be completed in a much shorter timeframe.
2023-2024 Regional Transit Passenger Snapshot Survey
Data collection will begin in fall 2023 and continue into spring 2024, with data available soon after.
Travel Diary Survey
A Travel Diary Survey collects travel, demographic and vehicle information from members of a household over a short period of time – usually one to seven days. Each person reports on aspects of their travel trips with details that include:
- Start and end locations
- Purpose of the trip
- Travel mode
- And more
A Travel Diary Survey captures data that would not be available through other sources, and so shows a more accurate picture of how Bay Area households get around.
2023 Bay Area Travel Study
Did you receive an invitation to participate in the 2023 Bay Area Travel Study? Click here to participate.
In the past, standard MTC practice has been to administer large household travel surveys roughly once every 10 years. More recently, staff have initiated a biennial (every other year) approach to data collection going forward. Reasons for this include:
- A large decennial survey effort requires an outsized budget item for the survey year, but more frequent surveying balances costs over a longer period;
- Survey technologies are evolving rapidly, including smartphone apps that greatly reduce survey burden and cost; and
- The pace of new travel trends and behavior is evolving quickly, and a once-every-decade survey misses many behavioral changes.
Study planning for 2023 is underway for data collection in both spring and fall, with data available early 2024.
For the 2023 survey cycle, MTC is partnering with San Francisco County Transportation Authority (SFCTA) and the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority (SCVTA). Approximately 4,500 households are expected to participate. Future survey cycles are planned for 2025, 2027 and 2029.
Previous Travel Diary Surveys
1965 Bay Area Travel Survey (BATS)
The 1965 Bay Area Travel Survey (BATS) was conducted as a face-to-face survey of over 20,000 Bay Area households for their weekday travel, and another 10,000 households for their weekend daily travel.
BATS ’65 can be considered a traditional “home interview survey” in that the surveys were actually conducted at the home of the respondent.
The 1981 BATS was the first telephone household travel survey conducted in the Bay Area. The ’81 survey was a single weekday survey of 6,209 households, and 882 households for their weekend daily travel patterns.
The 1990 BATS was the next household travel survey conducted in the Bay Area. The ’90 survey included a single-weekday component of 9,359 sample households and a multiple-weekday component of 1,479 households (10,838 total sample households). No data on weekend travel was collected in the 1990 BATS.
The 1996 BATS was the first "activity" survey conducted in the Bay Area. The ’96 survey was part of a larger Bay Bridge Congestion Pricing Demonstration Study.
The survey collected two-day weekday and weekend travel and activity diaries from 3,678 households. Of these nearly 3,700 households, 1,654 households were from a regional random “control” sample, 1,857 households were screened for Bay Bridge corridor travel (“target” sample), and 167 households were households originally recruited in the 1990 MTC household travel survey.
The BATS 2000 was the second household activity survey conducted in the Bay Area within five years. The 2000 survey collected two-day weekday and weekend travel/activity diaries from 15,064 households. Previous surveys were conducted in the spring and fall of the survey year.
BATS 2000 data was collected on a continuous basis, excluding holidays, between February 2000 and March 2001.
California Household Travel Survey (CHTS) 2012/2013
The California Household Travel Survey (CHTS) 2012/2013 was conducted in partnership with the California Department of Transportation. The CHTS 2012/13 was a one-day travel/activity data from 42,431 California households. This included 9,719 sample households in the San Francisco Bay Area. Data was collected between February 1, 2012 and January 31, 2013.
The non-Bay Area sample was collected for all 366 days, including weekends and holidays. The Bay Area “add-on” sample was restricted to Tuesdays through Thursdays, over the same 12 month data collection period. Of the 9,719 sample households, 8,085 provided weekday travel data; 717 provided Saturday data; and 916 households provided Sunday data.
Bay Area Travel Study 2018/2019
The Bay Area Transportation Study 2018/2019, while not a full-scale travel diary survey, collected travel and demographic data from 5,107 Bay Area persons.
Unlike previous MTC travel diary surveys, this survey wasn't household-based, but rather focused on individuals. The survey featured an oversample of neighborhoods likely to use emerging transportation modes, such as transportation network companies (like Uber and Lyft), and was conducted entirely using GPS-enabled smartphone data collection. MTC administered this survey in partnership with San Francisco County Transportation Authority.