“Dear diary, I took the bus today!” – Cost-efficient travel behavior influencers

By Saumya Jain

“Soft” transportation policy measures can influence a significant reduction in personal car use, according to a new research published in Transportation Research Part D.
The Behavioral Toolkit identifies six psychological variables that can affect travel behavior: attitudes; emotions; habits;  social, cultural, and moral norms; knowledge and awareness ; and capability and self-efficacy. To compare travel behavior measures, this study categorized each intervention under the six variables. The paper reviewed literature and analyzed experimental studies on transportation behavioral measures from the past 30 years.

The results show that interventions that focus on social, cultural, and moral norms have the most significant effect on travel behavior. The most effective interventions were travel feedback programs that made participants aware of their environmental impact and suggested alternate transportation modes and routes. Measures that were accompanied by incentives like transit vouchers were more effective than just education. Ineffective interventions were those focused on changing established habits and attitudes.

While policies and infrastructure that create barriers to car trips or alternative transportation options (congestion pricing, parking fees, blocking roads, bike-lanes, etc.) are impactful, they require substantial resources. Policymakers can use cost-effective and more easily-implementable soft interventions discussed in the study in conjunction with policies and infrastructure to change traveler behavior and mode.

Saumya Jain is a Senior Associate at SSTI.