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The Use of GPS to Improve Travel Data

United Kingdom
United Kingdom Flag
Geo-spatial type
STRIA Roadmaps
Smart mobility and services (SMO)
Transport mode
Multimodal icon
Transport policies
Societal/Economic issues
Transport sectors
Freight transport


Background & Policy context

Travel data collection is an imperfect craft. One of the key problems is the unreliable nature of human beings. Respondents tend to underreport trips, simplify the reports of journeys to save time and we are particularly poor at estimating times and distances. This project will establish the extent to which GPS technology can improve the quality and cost effectiveness of travel data collected in the UK now, and in the future. GPS devices have already been tested with promising results in the US, Canada and the Netherlands. The aim of this project is to test their application within the context of the London Area Transport Survey (LATS).


The specific objectives of this research are to determine:

  • the acceptability of passive personal GPS data recorders;
  • the reliability of data collected from passive personal GPS data recorders;
  • the extent to which these devices can improve travel survey data quality;
  • the extent to which passive personal data recorders might be used to replace conventional travel diary data;
  • the cost-effectiveness of using such devices.

The methodology involves equipping a sub-sample of LATS respondents with passive personal GPS data recorders and comparing the paper travel diary data with the GPS derived data. This will enable an evaluation of the benefit of GPS data, for example in terms of the reduction in missing trips. The reliability of inferred journey purposes and modes chosen from GPS data will also be investigated. While this project focuses on the LATS as a specific application, there are much wider possibilities, for example in aiding TfL to monitor the effects of congestion charging, or local authorities to monitor the effectiveness of their Local Transport Plans. Furthermore, as the technology develops and becomes more widespread, for example it is likely to appear in cellular phones, so the importance of this approach to travel data collection will increase.


Parent Programmes
Institution Type
Public institution
Institution Name
Department for Transport
Type of funding
Public (national/regional/local)


Lead Organisation
EU Contribution
Partner Organisations
EU Contribution


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