Learning From User Behavior: A Survey-Assist Algorithm for Longitudinal Mobility Data Collection: Article No. 100761

Hannah Lu, Katie Rischpater, K. Shankari

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


GPS-based travel surveys are widely used in mobility studies to gather crucial qualitative data, like purpose, transportation mode and replaced mode. However, survey response still poses a burden to users, especially in long-term mobility studies, leading to response fatigue. We explore a survey-assist strategy to ease this burden by a novel, user-level modeling approach that leverages past responses from each user to predict responses for new trips, without relying on external data sources like GIS data. We investigate three main algorithms for predicting responses: (i) clustering trips and extrapolating responses for similar trips, (ii) using random forest classification, and (iii) clustering that uses a hybrid algorithm to determine spatial structure, which is then fed as input to a classic random forest classifier. The clustering approach can flexibly predict responses for even complex qualitative survey questions; it achieved F-scores of 65%. The random forest pipeline uses architecture that restricts it to predicting three predetermined survey questions: trip purpose, mode, and replaced mode. However, it achieved F-scores of 78%. While the survey-assist approach has been implemented by several proprietary systems, to our knowledge, this is the first exploration in the academic literature. It follows that this is also the first rigorous evaluation of multiple algorithms that can implement the approach. The evaluation uses a large scale, publicly available, longitudinal dataset consisting of ~ 92k trips from 235 users over a period of roughly one and a half years. With this approach, travel surveys can be pre-filled with the predicted responses for each trip, thus streamlining the survey process for users. Combined with an active learning system that requests user input on low-confidence predictions, models can be updated and improved over time to better support the long-term collection of longitudinal qualitative data.
Original languageAmerican English
Number of pages14
JournalTravel Behaviour and Society
StatePublished - 2024

NREL Publication Number

  • NREL/JA-5400-85981


  • clustering
  • machine learning
  • random forest classification
  • supervised learning
  • trip classification
  • trip clustering


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