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PhD Defence Marie-José Olde Kalter | Dynamics in Mode Choice Behaviour

Dynamics in Mode Choice Behaviour

Due to the COVID-19 crisis the PhD defence of Marie-José Olde Kalter will take place (partly) online.

The PhD defence can be followed by a live stream.

Marie-José Olde Kalter is a PhD student in the research group Transport Engineering and Management (TEM). Her supervisor is prof.dr.ir. K.T. Geurs from the Faculty of Engineering Technology (ET).

Special note: Marie Jose Olde Kalter and Erwin Bezembinder both have their defence on November 5, one after the other (respectively 12.45 and 14.45). They both belong to the faculty Engineering Technology, department Civil Engineering. What makes this such a special occasion is the fact that they are a married couple.

To reverse the worrying long-term trends of growing mobility, such as congestion, CO2 emissions, air pollution and inefficient use of public spaces, policymakers try to encourage the use of more sustainable modes of transport, such as the bicycle and public transport. Therefore better insight is needed into the motivations and barriers of different transport modes and the underlying reasons for behavioural changes. An essential question in this regard is why, when and how mode preferences and mode choice change during the life course. A better understanding of what influences mode choice behaviour will help decision makers develop and implement better and more effective policy approaches to achieve the (desired) behavioural changes.

Examining the factors that affect mode choice behaviour has been a major field in travel behaviour research the last decades. However, most research is based on cross-sectional travel surveys, which is insufficient to capture inter- and intra-personal mode use variation. The availability of panel data provides researchers with new opportunities to increase our understanding of the temporal dynamics in mode choice behaviour. The aim of this thesis was to provide empirical evidence of the different factors that influence the dynamics in mode choice behaviour, the causal relationships between these factors and the directions of these relationships over time, based on large-scale panel data from the Netherlands, using different panel modelling techniques.

In conclusion, this thesis contributes to a better understanding of the dynamics in mode choice behaviour regarding household interactions, life events, changing attitudes and preferences, and teleworking. The findings show the potential of panel data to provide better insight into intra- and interpersonal changes in mode preferences and mode choice and the relationship with life events. The unique combination of travel data and detailed information of the same persons over time allowed us to analyse differences and changes in weekly and yearly travel patterns at the individual level. The analysis of changes in mode choice behaviour between subsequent years demonstrates that especially contextual changes in someone’s life are a trigger for behavioural changes. A first major result from this study is that attitudes and preferences are more stable over time than mode choice behaviour. A second major result is that changes in behaviour often precede changes in attitudes and preferences than vice versa. This is because people are more inclined to change attitudes and preferences to match their behaviour (or changes in behaviour). The third major result is that the analysis of the behavioural changes during the COVID-19 pandemic reveals a similar picture. Employees adapted to teleworking on a large scale, resulting in large changes in commuting behaviour. At the same time, during the lockdown, employees developed a more positive attitude towards working from home (i.e. more pleasure, higher productivity).

The main difference between the COVID-study and the other analyses in this thesis is that during the COVID-19 pandemic, employees were more or less ‘forced’ to change their behaviour. In contrast, contextual changes in someone’s life, such as life events, are triggers to reconsider behaviour. The COVID-19 pandemic shows that when people experience new behaviour for a more extended period, the intention to change behaviour is more likely. The main takeaway for policymakers from this thesis is that they should focus on experiments, pilots, and interventions aimed directly at the desired behavioural changes. Acceptance of measures aiming at the desired change of behaviour through rewarding people for adopting the desired behaviour (“the carrot”) or letting them pay for the undesired behaviour (“the stick”) can be expected to be positively induced by gaining a positive experience with the desired behaviour. Examples of policy measures that encourage behavioural changes are trails with free bus tickets, changes in the physical environment, for example investments in walking and cycling infrastructure to stimulate active mobility, or pricing policy, such as pricing depending on car use.

Another important outcome from this thesis is that the dynamics in mode choice behaviour is relevant at various levels: household vs individual, interpersonal vs intrapersonal, within a year vs between years. The availability of large-scale longitudinal data, both long-duration and short-duration panels, enables a distinction to be made between these different types of mode use variation. At the same time, the availability of new and more sophisticated panel data offers several opportunities for further research into the dynamics in mode choice behaviour. For example, future research based on panel data is relevant in order to examine whether the COVID-19 pandemic, in the long term, strengthens existing behaviour and preferences or results in structural changes in behaviour, preferences and commuting distance.