University of Vermont Transportation Research Center

Document Type


Publication Date



Over the last two decades, a limited number of studies have sought to measure attributes of one’s social network and connect these measures to travel. Increasingly, burdensome social network surveys include a contact’s location. This study focuses on long-distance travel, itself a challenge to quantify. The People in Your Life survey was a pilot mail-back questionnaire with 110 respondents in three regions of the United States. A method to characterize social network geography was proposed using not only distance between ego and contacts but also contact to contact distance. The new approach is able to incorporate the geographic extent of the networks when compared to the more basic approaches. Moreover, reasonable clusters were created using this small sample. The results agree with prior studies that social network extent is related to types and levels of travel. The research here was not conducted on a full or comprehensive social network, we only surveyed 13 total contacts, suggesting that there is merit to the idea that representative, but not comprehensive, social networks may be adequate for transportation-related research. If future research could comprehensively validate this proposition, the burden of adding social network measures to travel surveys would be reduced and potentially manageable.