Travel As a Function of (life) Projects

Travel As a Function of (life) Projects


S Schönfelder, WIFO - Austrian Institute of Economic Research, AT; K W Axhausen, Institute for Transport Planning and Systems, ETH Zürich, CH



Over the past 40 years, travel behaviour research has developed a wide range of interrelated explanatory approaches to individual mobility. A better understanding of the observed structures of travel and the motives behind is generally regarded as an important prerequisite for forecasting and the impact assessment of policy and planning measures.

The toolbox of analysis approaches within travel behaviour research - and especially in the field of "activity based analysis" (ABA) - is huge: More "classic" theories range from the early time-space geography approach to travel over the consideration of homogeneous behaviour of traveller segments, the investigation of household composition, life-styles and 'mobility styles' to attitudes and values as drivers of mobility. More recent approaches comprise the analysis of scheduling and re-scheduling effects for mobility patterns, the tracing of mobility biographies or the investigation of social networks to explain individual travel demand. This list is by far not complete.

If we turn to the long-term aspects of travel behaviour - which was ?reinvented? as a field of analysis in the 1990s - the analysis of adequate multi-week data has revealed interesting motives of behaviour, for example in the timing of activities or in destination choice and activity spaces. What is most exciting about the analyses of longitudinal data is the empirical evidence of an antagonism of routines and variety seeking in travellers? time-use and travel. Whereas we find several studies which treat those aspects individually, concepts and models of the inter-relationship of these two motives is yet to be developed.

This paper highlights an aspect of long-term travel behaviour which has not yet been touched explicitly to the authors? knowledge: Activity and travel behaviour not only underlies day-to-day rhythms and routines as well as a medium-term scheduling process, it can also be regarded as an important element of long-term "projects" of individuals. Those projects might involve buying a new home, finding a new workplace, actively searching a new partner or just organising a sports club summer party. If we think of life in events or projects, travel is a fundamental precondition of getting things done as well as an outcome of what people plan and implement. Many travel decisions therefore might be interpreted as provoked by a more-or-less planned strategy of implementing tasks which belong to a certain obligatory or voluntary personal project.

The exciting aspect of research into "travel as a function of projects" is the two-way approach to analysis: On the one hand, the traveller?s opportunities in time and space (car availability, household location etc.) are without doubt a determination or a constraint of how life projects can be managed. On the other hand, travel behaviour (i.e. Where to? Which mode? When?) emerges as a result of the particular requirements of the project itself. By nature, within the time frame of a project, travel patterns and choices may differ considerably: Buying a new home might require a car trip to a potential site in the countryside; it might however cause an underground ride to a bank?s office in the city centre in order to get a loan. Travelling for projects therefore inhibits diverse purposes, requires the usage of several modes, is planned or remains sporadic and has a predictable as well as non-predictable element. Finally, as projects have different time horizons (one week, a few months, a couple of years etc.), they might encourage or force travellers to adapt their "level of mobilisation" or even take locational decisions ? which goes beyond the day-to-day level of mobility.

This paper has a conceptual character and invites colleagues in the field of travel behaviour analysis to discuss the "travel as a function of projects" approach. It identifies the relationship with other strands of analysis such as activity scheduling or "mobility biographies" and refers to related disciplines such as cultural studies and the research into human capital formation. The paper also develops ideas for an analytical framework, i.e. it provides working hypotheses, proposals for the collection of appropriate data and directions for analyses and forecasting. An important aim of the work is to initiate a discussion about the viability of the concept and the question of how to operationalize the potential results for transport planning and policy.


Association for European Transport