Our recommendations fall into four main categories: Data Quality, Interagency
Cooperation, Visitor Traffic and Survey Timing, and Byway Recommendations.
They are interdependent, so improvements in any should have a positive impact
on the others.
It is difficult to obtain high quality data if the purposes for collecting the data are not known or if data were collected for a different type of use. It is our recommendation that there be a determination of specific variables related to byway use that need to be tracked, and that the type and format of data should be specified so that municipalities and counties can begin tracking byway visitation more closely and in ways that are comparable across byways. With better data, more complex studies can be done, and these should yield better and more useful information.
It appears that byway committees do a fine job of managing byways with a largely volunteer staff, but it also appears that there is much to gain by improved communication between state, federal, and municipal entities. Communication and cooperation could lead to:
Better understandings of the types of travelers visiting Colorado.
Opportunities to co-brand or cooperatively market the area attractions.
Sources of differentiation for each byway to increase awareness and identity.
Local and statewide advocacy of byways.
Increased revenue stream from traveler spending.
Visitor centers and other popular stopping points were visited as part of this study. We noted that visitor numbers and other statistics were insufficient or missing either because they were not seen as needed, or because the staff did not have enough time to get an accurate picture of the number and type of visitors traveling on their byway. Better information about visitor traffic would help ensure that future local studies make the best of abnormally high or low traffic periods, and could help insure that surveys are conducted by an appropriate number of surveyors.
Based on our findings, we recommend that the National Byways should have their own signage or that they should work with the state byway sign symbol to draw greater attention to these eight byways. FHWA recently approved signage for National Scenic Byways and visitors will soon see these signs designating Americas Byways. It is recommended that the Colorado Byway Commission should set up a standard form for collection of zip codes and other important data at all visitor centers along scenic byway routes. A more uniform data collection system would improve future studies of the byways.
In order to enhance each byway and the National Scenic Byway brand as a whole, local cooperation is key. There needs to be an effort to work with local businesses and others, and to get their buy-in and support of the byway designation. Hospitality training for front-line service and other workers, and making sure they have good information about things to do along the byway are vital. Even simple things such as giving the convenience store clerk and other businesses where people stop to ask directions a guide to whats available in town can make a big difference in the amount of money spent locally. If they dont know where the good coffee shop is, are they going to spend their money there? This is particularly true at the Top of the Rockies and the Santa Fe Trail. Both have large amounts of traffic and lots of people stopping for various reasons. Whether or not those people spend time looking at other attractions depends greatly on the information they are given.
The Trinidad Welcome Center does an excellent job of informing visitors of the local attractions. It was observed that if told about a particularly good place to eat or visit, the traveler said they would make an effort to go there if time allowed.
Leadville is a good example of an economy that could further benefit
by locals giving more information to travelers. As the only major town on
the Top of the Rockies Byway, they have the opportunity to attract more
visitors for lunch or a day trip. Approximately 1000 cars per hour passed
the Visitor Center while the survey team was there, and about 100 of these
cars stopped at the Visitor Center. Leadville should be looking for ways
to get more people to stop there.
Local grassroots training of service and information providers is extremely important for first contacts and recommendations about byways.
Development of baseline data for all state byway programs could benefit from a standard data identification and collection process.
National Byway signage along a byway is an important part of developing an image for the National program (thats what people see first).
One of the most challenging tasks was creating a project timeline for a pilot study. Many hurdles were discovered, and it is hoped that our experience will save others their time and effort in planning future studies. To this purpose we have developed a rough timeline for the various Phases of the project. Afterward, we will discuss the various elements behind each Phase.
18 Months Prior to Study:
Establish contact with the various byway and county officials.
Map out any portions of the byway that overlap federal public lands such as national forests, BLM lands, State parks, rights of way and Indian Reservation Nations.
Examine current collected data. If data is insufficient, express the need for tracking the variables needed.
Begin identification of possible survey locations.
Begin planning for focus groups, if desired.
12 Months Prior to Study:
Confirm data collection strategy and make sure communication is consistent with all byways.
Examine byway resources to determine general availability of staff and/or volunteers from the byway community.
Begin writing study proposals for presentation to government agencies and reviewing prior documentation.
Begin basic statistical data collection from potential survey locations to get a basic picture of how many visitors travel the byway, and how many stop at each location.
Interview byway areas as to what type of information they would like to receive via the survey instrument.
If focus groups are desired, now is the time to contact them.
Begin work on survey.
6 Months Prior to Study:
Finalize study proposals for government submission.
Finalize survey locations.
Begin arranging site logistics such as lodging, site permissions, photography, etc.
Get written verification of available resources.
Start application process for government permits such as National and State Parks, forests, BLM lands, Indian Nations, and other special permission needs such as state-run visitor centers, etc.
Start secondary data analysis and write-up.
3 Months Prior to Study:
Finalize volunteer/staff roster and assign hours.
Begin staff training as to proper method of interviewing for a survey.
Finalize hotel reservations and byway schedule.
If possible, note approximate sign locations, and collect any materials used to promote the byway.
Confirm survey locations.
Check on application process for needed permission.
Purchase any needed uniform items.
Begin printing needed surveys, permission slips, waivers, and other legal formalities.
1 Month Prior to Study:
Make sure to communicate plan both written and verbally with all interested parties to be sure everyone understands the plan.
Arrange for transportation, if not already done.
Send out final explanation packets to survey sites so they understand whats going on.
Get permissions from various government agencies or find an alternative site if permission is denied.
Go through a final rehearsal with staff.
Hire any needed data entry staff.
If using a web survey, set up survey site(s).
Plan menus etc, if applicable.
Go through gear checklist, if applicable.
1 Week Before Survey:
Confirm meeting time and place with survey volunteers.
Go over and explain any questions regarding the byway.
Check the weather forecast to make sure everyones prepared.
Handout packets with survey conduct rules, FAQs, contact information, and meeting time/place.
The type of data needed will depend largely on how the data are to be used and what level of detail is involved. We offer a list of general topics:
Basic Economic Information
- Revenue, Gross, Net, Retail, Services
- Value Assessments
- Per Capita Income
Local Population Size
Survey site selection is somewhat tricky. It is ideal to visit each site before final selection in order to observe the habits of motorists. Just because there is a visitor center doesnt mean anyone will stop there. Get a feel for how long it takes to get there, how many people will be needed, and dawn/dusk/weather patterns. Make sure that all staff follows site conditions, and make sure that no staff member is put in a dangerous place like an isolated or dark road. This not only compromises the safety of your crew, but also reduces the number surveys answered. We chose areas such as rest stops or popular scenic turnouts.
When selecting a crew for survey work it is very important to select the right people. No matter what the subject, conducting surveys is tedious work after the third weekend in a row. Very goal-oriented people who are challenged by quotas and other numerical measures did very well on this survey. The surveys tended to be more complete, accurate, and properly executed. The quality of data collected also seemed to increase as the interviewer investment increased. Even on the first run and with the same training, those who were hired for the duration of the study did better work than those filling in or working only a couple of weekends.
The training itself is also crucial. One can never underestimate the room for error in the process of conducting a survey, and one must be prepared for a variety of interpretations. This occurs with both the respondent and the interviewer. Even though it seems redundant or menial to go over the survey several times, it is important to test out the survey and the survey crew many times if possible. This reduces the chance of errors in the field, as misunderstandings are revealed during practice sessions.
This helps in training off-site crews or volunteers as well, as the pitfalls are already known. Often bad attitudes and frustration are problems. If your crew has had to run through the survey themselves, they get a better idea of why the script is so important and how easy it is to misunderstand a question one has never seen before.
This was the most complicated area of Section 2. Often, the byway to
be studied run through federal or private land, or the ideal survey location
is run by an agency or organization that requires an approval to use the
site. Our experience was that although byway groups knew of these locations
and even the operating organization, they did not know of approval requirements
necessary to use them. It is important to identify survey sites early on,
so that there is time to navigate through these processes. Some of the visitor
centers we used had very strict guidelines, and even required the specific
names of the interviewers before we were given a permit. Forty-five days
to six months is not an uncommon approval time in some cases. (See sample
of National Park Service Permission Application at http://www.nps.gov/socialscience/tech/survey.htm)
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