Travel Behavior Inventory

Where, when, and how we travel

Travel Behavior Inventory banner

Collecting information on day-to-day travel is vital for local, county and regional agencies to plan for future transportation needs.

The Travel Behavior Inventory is a 10-year program that includes:

  • A household travel survey
  • A once-in-five-years survey of on-board transit riders
  • Other travel behavior data collection

Household travel survey

The current wave of the household survey began deploying the week of June 14, 2021. This wave of the survey was delayed due to COVID-19, although in the interim, the team did conduct COVID-19 surveys to help explain how the pandemic has changed and is changing regional travel.

The 2018-2019 household travel survey engaged more than 7,500 households across the region to understand how they travel around the Twin Cities and surrounding areas. The study ran from October 2018 through September 2019.

Participant households are randomly selected from 19 counties throughout the greater Twin Cities region, including the seven-county metro area and three Wisconsin counties.

The Met Council transitioned the household survey to collecting data every other year instead of every 10 years, asking participants to use a smartphone application for seven days, or choose a one-day travel survey submitted online or over the phone.

The survey data and reports will help agencies propose practical transportation investments, produce competitive federal grant applications and prioritize the improvements that best fit regional needs. These data will be released throughout 2020.

These surveys are conducted in partnership with the Minnesota and Wisconsin Departments of Transportation.

2020 COVID-19 (Coronavirus) Outbreak Survey

Travel decreased steadily in the days following the first COVID-19 case in Minnesota as state officials took action to support physical distancing and people stayed at home. These actions have had, and will continue to have, an influence on travel behavior.

The Met Council is tapping into a panel of participants from the 2019 household survey to study the short and long-term effects of the COVID-19 outbreak. This follow-up survey will help explain how COVID-19 has changed and is changing travel behavior by comparing current behaviors to participants’ behavior in 2018-2019.

Even before COVID-19, the region was experiencing an increased pace of change with emerging technologies and shifts in the way people get around. Now, there are uncertainties during this time, like when “normal” travel behavior will return, what travel behavior changes will be long lasting, and how resurgences of COVID-19 might change the cycle of travel.

This follow-up survey is one tool that the Met Council is using to understand long-term effects on all modes of passenger transportation for possible application in future travel forecasts and transportation planning.

Transit On-Board Survey

From September through October 2021, the Metropolitan Council, in cooperation with Metro Transit and all regional transit providers, is administering a survey on board all bus and train routes in the region. These surveys help discover how, when, where, and why people travel on the region’s buses and trains. The survey seeks also to understand who takes transit to help make sure our transit services work equitably for everyone who uses it.

Survey staff with tablet computers will be onboard transit asking randomly selected passengers to answer a set list of questions about their bus or train trips. The data collected will be used to improve transit forecasts by updating and validating the Met Council’s travel forecast model. This model ultimately helps plan improvements to the region’s transit system.


In 2015, the Council conducted a study that evaluated the way we administer the Travel Behavior Inventory (TBI) household survey, and how we use the data for travel forecasting and funding decisions. Following that study, the Council shifted the survey to a continuous cycle, collecting data every two years to keep pace with rapid changes in the transportation industry.

These data will keep the regional travel-demand forecasting model up to date and valid in order to forecast traffic and transit ridership for all major projects.

Data from the previous TBI studies in 2000 and 2010 was instrumental in the planning and approval of every major transportation project built in the region in the past 10 years.


Jonathan Ehrlich