The Trip Itinerary Optimization Platform: A Framework for Personalized Travel Information

Ted Kwasnik, Joshua Sperling, Steven Isley, Scott Carmichael

Research output: NRELTechnical Report


The New Concepts Incubator team at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) developed a three-stage online platform for travel diary collection, personal travel plan optimization and travel itinerary visualization. In the first stage, users provide a travel diary for the previous day through an interactive map and calendar interface and survey for travel attitudes and behaviors. One or more days later, users are invited via email to engage in a second stage where they view a personal mobility dashboard displaying recommended travel itineraries generated from a novel framework that optimizes travel outcomes over a sequence of interrelated trips. A week or more after viewing these recommended travel itineraries on the dashboard, users are emailed again to engage in a third stage where they complete a final survey about travel attitudes and behaviors. A usability study of the platform conducted online showed that, in general, users found the system valuable for informing their travel decisions. A total of 274 individuals were recruited through Amazon Mechanical Turk, an online survey platform, to participate in a transportation study using this platform. On average, the platform distilled 65 feasible travel plans per individual into two recommended itineraries, each optimal according to one or more outcomes and dependent on the fixed times and locations from the travel diary. For 45 percent of users, the trip recommendation algorithm returned only a single, typically automobile-centric, itinerary because there were no other viable alternative transportation modes available. Platform users generally agreed that the dashboard was enjoyable and easy to use, and that it would be a helpful tool in adopting new travel behaviors. Users generally agreed most that the time, cost and user preferred recommendations 'made sense' to them, and were most willing to implement these itineraries. Platform users typically expressed low willingness to try the carbon and calories optimized itineraries. Of the platform users who viewed the dashboard, 13 percent reported changing their travel behavior, most adopting the time, calories or carbon optimized itineraries. While the algorithm incorporates a wealth of travel data obtained from online APIs pertaining to a travelers route such as historic traffic condition data, public transit time-tables, and bike path routes, open-ended responses from users expressed an interest in the integration of even more fine-grained traffic data and the ability to dynamically model the effect of changes in travel times. Users also commonly expressed concerns over the safety of walking and biking recommendations. Responses indicate that more information about the amenities available to cyclists and pedestrians (sidewalks, shade from trees, access to food) and routes that avoid areas of perceived elevated danger would reduce barriers to implementing these recommendations. More accurate representations of personal vehicle trips (based on vehicle make and model, implications of parking) and the identification of routes that optimize caloric intensity (seeking out elevation changes or longer walks to public transit) are promising avenues for future research.
Original languageAmerican English
Number of pages41
StatePublished - 2017

NREL Publication Number

  • NREL/TP-6A80-67241


  • human-centered
  • optimization
  • personalization
  • transportation
  • travel itinerary


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