Knowledge, Familiarity and Mode Choice

Knowledge, Familiarity and Mode Choice


J Hawthorne, Sinclair Knight Merz, UK


How do travellers choose between modes? How is the choice of destination linked to the range of modes available? A familiarity framework which maps the players, influences and trends, can assist in developing strategies to influence mode choice.


How do travellers choose which mode to use to reach their destination? What is the linkage between the choice of destination and the range of modes available?
Modellers generally assume perfect knowledge and a considered set of decisions regarding cost and utility. But in practice models need to be calibrated with modal constants to replicate observed behaviour. In contrast, behaviour change practitioners typically assume imperfect knowledge and therefore recognise seemingly ?irrational? choices, for reasons which may be difficult to isolate or measure. Instead they seek to measure the effectiveness of specific interventions, usually selected on the basis of more measurable metrics associated with the target population.
In previous ETC papers, the author has introduced a number of concepts such as familiarity and regularity, control and responsibility, branding and satisficing in an attempt to gain a better understanding of the underlying psychological drivers in mode choice and to consider how transport planners, regulators and operators can influence mode choice and better tailor their service offerings to their users.
This paper starts with the hypothesis that travellers make their decisions within the boundaries of what is familiar, and what is known. This applies both to the journey to be made and to the range of modes potentially available. And whereas familiarity is grounded in experience, ?knowledge? may be passive or active, and may or may not be accurate.
Thus it could be argued that greater familiarity and more, and better information ? and therefore knowledge ? is a ?good thing? which will lead to better informed modal choice.
But travellers faced with too much choice can become confused and destabilised, and may resort to satisficing to reduce the effort of choice to an acceptable level.
So, in practice, planners, regulators, operators and destination promoters may have different ideas and priorities regarding exactly how and where to push the boundaries of familiarity and knowledge.
Drawing on ideas introduced in previous ETC papers, this paper develops a framework within which the players, influences and trends can be mapped, enabling the identification of ?gaps? and trends which can be used both to understand the dynamic of the marketplace as a whole, and by individual players to identify how best to influence modal choice.
These are then used to consider some practical examples of strategies which players have adopted, or can consider adopting, to influence travel behaviour and thus mode choice.


Association for European Transport