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Travel behavior

Travel behavior is the study of what people do over space, and how people use transport.

The questions studied in travel behavior are broad, and are probed through activity and time-use research studies, and surveys of travelers designed to reveal attitudes, behaviors and the gaps between them in relation to the sociological and environmental impacts of travel.

Other behavioral aspects of traveling, such as letting people get off before entering a vehicle, queueing behavior, etc. (See for example Passenger behavior in Shanghai)

These questions can be answered descriptively using a travel diary, often part of a travel survey or travel behavior inventory. Large metropolitan areas typically only do such surveys once every decade, though some cities are conducting panel surveys, which track the same people year after year.

That data is generally used to estimate transportation planning models, so that transport analysts can make predictions about people who haven't been surveyed. This is important in forecasting traffic, which depends on future changes to road networks, land use patterns, and policies.

Some years ago it was recognized that behavioral research was limited by data, and a special data set was developed to aid research: The Baltimore Disaggregate Data Set which is the result an in depth survey, ca. 1977. Its title indicates today’s emphasis on disaggregated rather than aggregated data. This particular data set is believed lost. A small program to preserve and make available on the web these travel behavior surveys, the Metropolitan Travel Survey Archive, is now under way at the University of Minnesota. There is also the National Personal Transportation Survey (later National Household Travel Survey), conducted every five years or so, but with much less spatial detail.

Analysis of travel behavior from the home can answer the question: How does the family participate in modern society. Consider two non-observable extremes. At one extreme we have the non-specialized household. It does everything for itself, and no travel is required. Ultimate specialization is the other extreme; travel is required for all things. Observed households are somewhere in between. The “in between” position of households might be thought of as the consequence of two matters.

  • How many trips do people make?
  • Where do they go? (What is the destination?)
  • What mode do they take?
  • Who accompanies whom?
  • When is the trip made? What is the schedule?
  • What is the sequence or pattern of trips?
  • What route choices do people make?
  • Why do people travel? (Why can't people stay at home and telecommute or teleshop?)
  • To what degree are people aware of the environmental and climate impacts of their travel choices?
  • To what degree and how do people rationalize the environmental and climate impacts causes by their travel?
  • Where changes in travel behavior would be beneficial to society, how might those changes be promoted?


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