The Car: Sheer Laziness?

The Car: Sheer Laziness?


M van Hagen, Netherlands Railways; R Eijsink, G Apeldoorn, University of Twente; J Verhoeven, University of Amsterdam, NL


Mode choice between car and train is not only determined by instrumental objectives. Research revealed that especially affective motives play a key role in using the car. Railway companies are recommended to pay more attention to affective motives.


For railway operators it is important to gain a better understanding of the drivers behind the travel mode choices that potential train passengers make. Subjective car-captives are an important target group. To them the train is a realistic alternative, but nevertheless they persist in using the car. From the literature can be concluded that three motives play an important role in their choices: instrumental motives, affective motives and symbolic motives (Steg, Vlek & Slotegraaf, 2001).

Research question
The aim of this study is to map affective and symbolic motives of commuters and leisure travelers. The research question is: To what extent are symbolic and affective motives important regarding the experience of a car journey for work and leisure, in situations where the train is a realistic alternative?

Research Method
The research method used to find out what really moves car drivers is a projective technique. Projective techniques are qualitative research methods which can map underlying motives for the use of a car (Slotegraaf, Steg & Vlek, 1997). This study introduces Underlying Construct Elicitation Method (UCEM). The method consists of seven steps and is inspired by the ZMET-method (Zaltman & Coulter, 1995; Zaltman, 1997). We focused in two studies on the behavior of work related (study 1) and leisure related (study 2) trips to Schiphol Airport in the Netherlands.
For the work related trips twenty employees of Schiphol Airport Group were subjected to UCEM and for the leisure related trips also 20 participants were invited at the car park of Schiphol Airport to participate in this study, using the UCEM method. The participants brought photographs with them to the interview which served as input for the interview. Several constructs were generated during the interview. The concerning constructs were symbolic, affective and instrumental. These constructs were then analyzed and themes were formed based on transcripts of the interviews. Among the other analysis steps were a photo analysis and a qualitative data analysis.

The results show that for commuters the affective motives such as 'freedom ', 'relaxation' and 'pleasant' are most often mentioned as motives which play a role in the experience of the commuters - travel by car. The results for the leisure trips show that ?convenience? is key in the journey experience and the car journey is experienced as an easy way of travelling. Besides an easy journey the leisure travelers experienced "freedom" and "joy" while travelling to the airport.

Following this notion it can be concluded that affective motives are the most important in experiencing a car journey, both for commuters and leisure travelers. Instrumental motives play a smaller role in the travel experience and symbolic motives play only a modest role. These conclusions are in line with findings of Steg (2005) who states that car use has a stronger relationship with symbolic and affective motives than with instrumental motives.

As we have seen that affective motives are key in the experience and use of the car, it is for railway operators of pivotal importance that they do not only pay attention to the instrumental motives of a train journey, like safety, reliability and speed, but also to the affective motives of the trip, like the feeling of freedom and the joy people experience while traveling.


Association for European Transport