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Travel Forecasts

Several FTA project-evaluation measures rely on travel forecasts prepared by sponsors of proposed New Starts and Small Starts projects. In its reviews to ensure their usefulness in project evaluation, FTA considers five aspects of the forecasts:

  1. The properties of the forecasting methods;
  2. The adequacy of current ridership data to support useful tests of the methods;
  3. The successful testing of the methods to demonstrate their grasp of current ridership;
  4. The reasonableness of inputs (demographics, service changes) used in the forecasts; and
  5. The plausibility of the forecasts for the proposed project.

Project sponsors may choose among three different approaches to prepare ridership forecasts:

  1. Region-wide travel models;
  2. Incremental data-driven methods; and
  3. FTA’s Simplified Trips-on-Project Software (STOPS).

The first two options depend entirely on local efforts both to develop the forecasting methods and to prepare the forecasts. Consequently, for these options, FTA’s review will consider all five aspects of the forecasts. The third option relies on the product of FTA efforts to develop a forecasting method. Consequently, for this option, FTA’s review needs to consider only the last two aspects of forecasts.

To provide sufficient time for these reviews and any follow-up with project sponsors, FTA has established timelines for submittal of travel forecasting information.

Timelines for Submittal of Travel Forecasting Information

Information for FTA Review

Region-wide Model

Incremental Model



Months in advance of anticipated ratings request

Documentation of the model methodology43n/a
Documentation of model testing43n/a
Documentation of project-specific inputs332
Draft-final forecasts for the project221