Study To Help Local Planning Officials Improve Travel Around the South Sound

Note: This study is now over, results may be found at

Residents around the South Sound region are receiving notices in the mail inviting them to participate in an important South Sound Travel Study. This data collection effort, supervised by Thurston Regional Planning Council (TRPC), will chronicle the daily travel activities of over 2,500 households throughout Thurston County and its neighboring communities. Detailed data captured from the survey will be used to build transportation modeling and planning tools that local, regional, state, and federal transportation officials will use to better understand how, when, and why people travel in and around our region. Without the South Sound Travel Study, local planners and policy makers would rely on national statistics from communities quite different from ours, resulting in plans that may not adequately serve future transportation needs.

South Sound Travel Study Map

A similar study, conducted in the late 1990s, employs a standard transportation data collection procedure called a “household travel survey.” This process randomly selects households from throughout Thurston County and parts of Pierce County and then screens candidates to ensure the process obtains a representative sample that reflects the composition of our community. Selected households are then assigned a “travel day” on which all travel by household members is recorded.

People who participate in the survey play an important role and must commit time and provide attention to detail when recording their travel activities. TRPC is putting extra focus on military households, recognizing the important role that Joint Base Lewis-McChord plays in our region and the unique character of travel within these households. The data collection process is also paying close attention to households with zero vehicles (an increasing share as our population ages and young people put off getting drivers licenses), and low income households. Geographic representation is important too, since the travel patterns of urban residents are somewhat different from those of rural residents.

The study is anticipated to run from September through October, and probably into November. The data processing phase will require several additional months. Every bit of data collected is carefully screened to ensure absolute confidentiality of the participating households. Ultimately it is all rolled up into a set of databases for use in various modeling applications. The data is analyzed to create mathematical equations that are used in a regional travel demand model to estimate future traffic patterns by future residents. This in turn will be used to plan for future transportation investments and guide local, regional, and state policies.

Transportation officials will gain a better sense of how key corridors like I-5 are used, ways in which transit supports the region’s travel needs, and where biking and walking work best. In this way the generous participation of 2,500 of the region’s households will help shape transportation investments and decisions for many years to come.

Be on the lookout for a flyer inviting you to participate in the South Sound Travel Study. If you don’t get an invitation but still want to participate, you may be able to join in this study as a voluntary participant. Email or call toll-free 1-800-401-9786 to see if you can help.

This study is led by a team of partners including TRPC, the Washington State Department of Transportation, Intercity Transit, South Sound Military and Communities Partnership, and the Puget Sound Regional Council. But the most important study partners are the communities and the households that agree to participate in the study and share their travel behavior details.

South Sound Travel Study

For more information about the South Sound Travel Study, visit