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Compilation of Public Opinion Data on Tolls and Road Pricing (2008)

Chapter: Chapter Two - Methods for Compiling and Analyzing Data

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Suggested Citation:"Chapter Two - Methods for Compiling and Analyzing Data." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2008. Compilation of Public Opinion Data on Tolls and Road Pricing. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/14151.
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Suggested Citation:"Chapter Two - Methods for Compiling and Analyzing Data." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2008. Compilation of Public Opinion Data on Tolls and Road Pricing. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/14151.
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Page 9

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9This chapter describes the compilation of the information on which this synthesis is based. The information was gathered in two separate tasks: a literature review and a survey of prac- titioners. Both methods were used to identify project- and non-project-related surveys or focus groups. These data were analyzed both qualitatively and quantitatively. The first two tasks were conducted in parallel, seeking to compile a broad set of data points. LITERATURE REVIEW The literature review relied on several mechanisms to gather the information necessary to prepare this synthesis report. First, a web search was conducted to identify articles, reports, or media accounts of public opinion results on tolls and road pricing. Second, searches of CD-ROMs containing papers pre- sented at TRB annual meetings and of Transportation Research Information Services (TRIS) Online (the web-based version of the TRIS database) were conducted to identify a set of use- ful papers and presentations on the topic. As published arti- cles, academic literature, conference papers, and presentations were identified, their references were reviewed to identify additional sources of information. Third, the contacts of the authors and of the Topic Panel were used to identify poten- tial sources of information. Fourth, surveys and focus groups conducted on the topic by the authors have also been used as source materials. A clipping service that covers every daily and non-daily newspaper in the United State was employed to widen the search for information to include more general media articles covering public opinion on tolls and road pricing. A clipping service is a company that collects articles of interest from newspapers and periodicals according to search criteria that are pre-specified by a client. The search criteria given to the service were: “public opinion,” “road pricing,” and “tolling”; the time criteria were the years 2000 to 2007. The service identified 678 media articles. After a review of the headings, 124 articles were found to be relevant enough to request the full articles. The entire literature review process identified more than 200 citations for public opinion data on tolling and road pricing; 110 were relevant to the topic and are presented in the compilation of data in chapter three. Public opinion polls conducted in response to ballot measures or other specific policy or planning debates were common. These were spon- sored by news agencies, public agencies, or political groups trying to gauge support for a specific proposal. Also quite common were surveys and focus groups used to evaluate toll or road pricing projects prior and subsequent to implementa- tion. Some citations were eliminated after reviewing the full information because they were editorials or op-ed pieces, covered behavioral not opinion data, or contained statements of support or opposition but not the actual data measures. SURVEY OF PRACTITIONERS A survey was conducted with agencies responsible for or engaged in tolling and road pricing to both identify data sources and gather their perspectives on relevant issues. The sampling frame was the membership list of the International Bridge, Tunnel, and Toll Road Association. After culling the list of private consultants and engineering firms that had undertaken relevant projects, the sample comprised 42 agen- cies. Each of these agencies was contacted by telephone to identify the relevant individual within the agency, to explain the purpose of the survey, to request participation, to conduct the interview by telephone or to e-mail the survey document, and to collect copies of relevant reports. The first contact within each agency was with the public information officer or the communications director. It was believed that this indi- vidual would be most aware of any public opinion polls or surveys conducted by the agency and would be able to report on or provide direction to the relevant information. The survey questionnaire was organized into two parts (see Appendix A). Part 1 elicited general information on sur- veys or polls sponsored by the organization; requested access to the data, findings, and methods; and asked for the agen- cies’ (individuals’) perspectives on various aspects of public opinion about tolling and road pricing. Part 1 included 10 open- ended questions. Part 2 gathered situational context informa- tion for specific projects that included 13 questions that were mostly close-ended, such as project type, goals, legislative support, and pricing. Of the 42 agencies in the sample, interviews were com- pleted with 17. Of these, five agencies responded that no sur- veys had been conducted. Eleven completed the question- naires. Of the 25 agencies with which an interview was not completed, 9 explicitly reported that they did not want to CHAPTER TWO METHODS FOR COMPILING AND ANALYZING DATA

participate in the survey. Sixteen were unresponsive after multiple contact attempts. ANALYSIS OF DATA POINTS Both qualitative and quantitative analyses of the compiled data were conducted. Qualitative modes of data analysis were used to discern, examine, and interpret meaningful patterns or themes across the compiled data. Research questions included: What patterns and common themes emerged? Were there any deviations from these patterns? If yes, were there any factors that might explain these atypical responses? Did the patterns that emerge corroborate the findings of the quan- titative analysis or any previous analyses that have been con- ducted? If not, what might explain the discrepancies? The quantitative data analysis was conducted with a full recognition of the limitations of the dataset especially in terms of external validity, given that data points were selected using non-probability sampling methods. External validity refers 10 to the generalization of research findings, and our sample of surveys and focus groups were not randomly selected from the full set that had ever been conducted on this topic. How- ever, because our review was successful in compiling a broad and diverse range of surveys and focus groups, the data rep- resent a good cross section of public opinion on tolling and road pricing. A Statistical Package for the Social Sciences dataset con- taining 10 variables was created to conduct the quantitative analysis. These variables were project number, support or opposition to pricing, year of poll, region of poll, whether clarifying information was provided in the poll questions, the validity of the poll or survey (based on our best assessment of the research), the context of the poll (whether it was gen- eral or focused on a particular project), the sponsor of the research, the type of pricing, and the type of respondents. The analysis tables are presented as Appendix B. The data points (i.e., poll, survey, and set of focus groups) comprised the data records or cases for analysis. The analysis activities included both frequency distributions and cross tabulations.

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TRB’s National Cooperative Highway Research Program (NCHRP) Synthesis 377: Compilation of Public Opinion Data on Tolls and Road Pricing explores how the public feels about tolls and road pricing, examines public opinion concerning charging for the use of roads, and highlights factors associated with the acceptance or rejection of road pricing.

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