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In the Census survey and the NHTS, the basic assumption on commuting is that individuals commute on a daily basis between a single fixed residence and a single fixed workplace. Thus LDC/TRC commuting that is often done less frequently than daily or weekly may not be well captured by the surveys. From the information provided by the two datasets, the identified interregional commuting based on home and work locations, as well as long distance commuting based on reported work trip distance cannot truly represent the research subject although they share some attributes of LDC/TRC commuting. Moreover, considering the special characteristics of the LDC/TRC commuting, more information especially "stories" behind the phenomenon is needed in order to answer the research questions.
6.1. Summary of Preliminary Study National transportation statistics have shown the rise of long-distance, trans-regional commute (LDC/TRC) in the US. Four societal factors contribute to the trend: increase in dual earner households, advance in information and communications technologies, new concept of arranging work time weekly, and people's changing attitude towards travel.
In the field of urban transportation planning, commuting has been studied in individual metropolitan areas in a one-day time frame. LDC/TRC traverse multiple metros and the commuting behavior cannot be better understood without going beyond the one-day convention.
Studying LDC/TRC corresponds to the growing interest worldwide in planning for megaregions.
Up to date, the phenomenon of weekly commuting has been explored only by a few European researchers in the fields of geography and sociology.
This study analyzed LDC/TRC using national datasets available in the US. They are American Travel Survey, National Household Travel Survey, and Census Transportation Planning Package.
Results show that,
• Nationwide, the percentage of long distance commuters increased from 2.8% in year 2001 to 2.9% in year 2009. The South Census Region which Texas belongs to had the highest percentage of long distance commuters at 3.1% in 2009.
• Among long distance commuters, more than 80% traveled 50 to 100 miles to work, and less than 3% traveled over 300 miles to work. The main travel means for long distance commute was private car; more than 90% of long distance commuters drove private cars to work and more than 80% of them drove alone.
• The vehicle miles traveled (VMT) by the 3% of long distance commuter accounted for 16% of VMT by all commuters in 2001 and 13% in 2009, respectively. The decline in VMT suggests a shift in mode choice over time from driving to non-driving.
• Long distance commuters spent more time away from home, leaving home earlier and return home later than normal commuters. Male commuters tend to travel longer distances than female. If a person has options to work at home occasionally, he or she tends to commute long distance.
• In Texas, 70% of commutes with distance of 50 miles or longer was interregional, and more than 70% of the long distance commutes in Texas was within the Texas Triangle Area.
6.2. Future Research The national travel surveys are helpful in portraying large pictures of LDC/TRC but limited in offering insights into LDC/TRC behavior. Based on the preliminary study presented above, the next phase of the study will conduct qualitative research by interviewing selected LDC/TRC individuals in the Texas Triangle megaregion.
The research subject includes commuters who reside inside the Texas Triangle area and commute at least 50 miles to a work place which is not located in the metropolitan region of his or her residence. Residents who live in non-metro area but commute to metro regions also qualify.
Non-probabilistic sampling techniques will be applied to recruit respondents. These techniques include convenience sampling, snowball sampling, and self-selection sampling.
The first step to recruit LDC/TRC commuters is by asking friends, family, and chance acquaintances, the so-called convenience sampling. Convenience sampling is a type of sampling in which the samples are obtained simply because "they are convenient" sources of data for researchers (Battaglia, 2008). Convenience sampling is easy to carry out. It requires little cost but can help researchers to gather useful data and information that would be difficult to collect using probability sampling method. In the preliminary study stage, five samples have been determined using convenience sampling method. The five samples include a financial manager who commutes between Austin and Hallettsville three times a week to maintain a preferred lifestyle; a transportation planner who commutes between Austin and Dallas weekly because of work arrangement; another transportation planner who commutes between Austin and Houston weekly to continue her education; a travel demand modeler who commutes between Houston and Austin to fulfill client's requirement; and a saleswomen who commutes to west Texas weekly from Austin for her work.
Convenience sampling provides a quick and easy access to some research subjects, it often suffers from selection bias. By convenience sampling, samples are often drawn from a certain group of people, and unable to represent the whole target population. The sample size obtained by this method is often insufficient. Then, recruiting more LDC/TRC commuters will be further realized by applying the self-selection sampling method. Self-selected sampling allows sampling units to determine whether to participate on their own accord, and are most common when "rare, difficult-to-locate demographic subpopulations are sampled"(Sterba & Foster, 2008). Selfselected sampling involves steps of publicizing the research need and checking the relevance of units to either invite or reject them (Web page, 2009). By solicitation, more LDC/TRC commuters could be attracted to this research. The respondents who volunteer to participate in the research are also more likely to share their experience and insight into the phenomenon being studied (Web page, 2009).
In order to attract attention from a maximum range of potential research subjects, it is important to propagate the research need to a large population. In this research, four types of medium will be selected to publicize the invitation for participating in the research: local newspaper, community classified and discussion forums, university student organizations and listserv, and professional organizations and listserv.
In addition to convenience sampling and self-selected sampling, snowball sampling will also be used to increase the sample size. Snowball sampling is a technique that is commonly applied to study members of a rare population. It begins with distinguishing one or more members of a rare population, from whom the names of additional persons in the same/rare population are obtained (Chromy, 2008). LDC/TRC commuters are more likely to know other LDC/TRC commuters through two channels. First, they may share the same travel means, such as car-pool or taking same flight; second, they may pay more attention to other LDC/TRC commuters around them to share feelings and experiences. Each LDC/TRC commuter found through convenience sampling and self-selected sampling will be asked questions about other LDC/TRC commuters they may know.
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