App-based surveys can give mutual benefits

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The German city of Dresden and the Technische Universität (TU) Dresden conducted several surveys using the app TravelVu. They investigated travel behavior before and during the pandemic, as well as ways to recruit participants. Now, researchers from Dresden are investigating how traditional and app-based data collection differ and how the methods can be combined.

From 2018 to 2020, TU Dresden participated in the TravelViewer research project together with Trivector Traffic. The aim was to investigate travel behavior in four different countries – Denmark, Germany, Norway and Italy. The goal was to develop a tool for collecting and analyzing travel data that could be used to design a more sustainable mobility system. They also wanted to test new ways of recruiting participants.


Technische Universität (TU) Dresden

Data collection start:

Data collection ends:

The pandemic’s impact on travel behavior was studied

In 2020, the Corona pandemic broke out and the city of Dresden wanted to study how the pandemic affected mobility behavior in the city.

-With the help of TravelVu, we were able to act quickly and get the survey underway in spring. The study was called Urban Transport in Changing Times and followed up on the Dresden in Bewegung survey from the Travelviewer. This time, additional questions were asked, including the impact of the pandemic, says Johannes Weber, a doctoral student at TU Dresden.

The study showed that the Corona pandemic had a major impact on travel behavior in Dresden. The restrictions led to significantly fewer trips and more time spent at home, especially among employed people. When the restrictions were relieved, the number of trips increased again.

-Interestingly, some of the behaviors during the pandemic persisted: After just over two months of survey, there was still a higher proportion of bicycling and walking, fewer car trips and more short trips, Johannes says.

Another study – Urban Transport in Tune with the Times.

In Germany, periods of severe restrictions alternated with periods of fewer restrictions during the pandemic. To get an overview of travel behavior and how dynamically it was affected by the pandemic, in 2021 the TU Dresden and the city of Dresden decided to conduct another study called Urban Transport in Tune with the Times.

In app-based survey context, this was the first time Dresden used a random sample. They sent letters to randomly selected residents and combined this with an information campaign.

Johannes gives us a few insights into the behavior of employed people as one of the most affected population groups:

-Some things can be compared to pre-pandemic behavior – for example, with the relief phases of restrictions, employed people were then leaving home similarly often again, and bicycle trips also increased again to pre-Corona levels, but not as much as in 2020. What is striking, however, is that trip distances in general increased strongly, even higher than before Corona, especially for car trips. More trips to recreational activities were also clearly evident.

Technical support offered interesting insights

Participants had the opportunity to contact a technical support with questions and thoughts about the survey, and what motivated them.

– We found a lot of interest from participants. They showed us that app-based surveys can be mutually beneficial. Participants do not just provide data that benefits urban planning. They appreciate learning about their own travel behavior, the distribution between different modes of transportation, and how they get around within the city,” says Johannes

By providing technical support, the research team (Prof. Dr. Regine Gerike, Dr. Stefan Hubrich and Johannes Weber) was also able to reach many older participants in the latest survey who were not so familiar with smartphones.

-It was good to have a support where we could answer questions not only about how the app works, but also about why we are doing the survey, how the data will be used and how it will be protected, Johannes says.

With already three app surveys at TU Dresden, Johannes sums up:

-TravelVu is indeed a good method for data collection. It is just a matter of finding the right way to conduct the survey and then deriving benefits for transportation planning from the data collected.

App to increase motivation

Perhaps the technology could also be used in a national travel survey? Every five years, TU Dresden conducts a large travel survey called Mobility in Cities – SrV in many German cities. It is based on online questionnaires and telephone interviews. One challenge is that the response rate and motivation to participate in surveys in general have dropped strongly over time in Germany. This is associated with effort and cost to continue to obtain good quality data. TU Dresden is therefore investigating whether it is also possible to collect this travel data with an app.

-With new technology, we increasingly have the opportunity to develop a survey that is also increasingly interesting for participants, says Johannes. We want to investigate what data we get when we collect travel data with an app. We also want to explore how traditional methods can be combined with new, app-based methods.


About Johannes Weber

Johannes Weber, doctoral student at TU Dresden, in the field of travel surveys – how to recruit participants, motivate them to participate over several days and how to compare app data with data from traditional surveys.

More about the studies (english)

Urban Mobility in Changing Times, report

TravelVu and TravelViewer – New Ways of Collecting and Evaluating Travel Survey Data, report

Dresden in Bewegung, project page

Mobility in Cities – SrV, project page


More about the studies (german)

Urban Transport in Tune with the Times, presentation of results (German)

Urban Transport in Changing Times, presentation of the press conference (German)

Dresden in Bewegung Facebook 

Dresden in Bewegung Twitter 






For more information about the studies in Dresden, please contact