COST Action 355: Changing behavior towards a more sustainable transport demand"
Head of the Project from TSI:
Current transport behaviour leads to increasing congestion of the infrastructure, growing dependence on imported fossil fuels, continually rising energy demand, and growing CO2 emissions. The road infrastructure system is failing to cope with the amount of traffic. There is a broad consensus in the declared policies of local, national and international agencies that this trend is not sustainable in the longer term, so that one of the major roles of transport policy is to manage, slow down or reverse this process. This is particularly the case in metropolitan areas, and concerns both personal travel and freight transport. Four main types of behavioural changes might help to achieve this objective:
- a better spatial organisation (leading to fewer trips and shorter distances, being aware that distances are increasing much more rapidly than number of passengers or tons of freight),
- the choice of more environmentally friendly modes,
- the choice of vehicles with lower consumption and emissions,
- a better use of vehicles (higher, occupancy rate and lower empty running).
In order to promote a more sustainable transport system, it is essential to(a) understand the determinants of individuals and firms travel and transport decisions and how these could be influenced in various time perspectives and (b) to monitor in an accurate and timely fashion the effects of specific policies, so that an optimal policy mix can be assured. This requires the development and implementation of observational and analytical tools, which enable the investigation of changes in transport and travel behaviour and the conditions necessary to promote these changes.
A shift to sustainable forms and means of transport is also a main goal of the transport policy documents in the EU Member States and other European countries.
A number of projects and studies have been conducted in this field, not only by the EC, but also by the OECD, ECMT (European Conference of Ministers of Transport) and other international organisations and on the national and regional level. Results of the recent research activities have been implemented into practice and some of these measures have already brought significant improvement, particularly if supported by the relevant economic tools.
Objectives and benefits
The main objective of the Action is to develop a more rigorous understanding of the conditions under which the process of growing unsustainable transport demand could be reversed, by changing travellers', shippers' and carriers' behaviour.
A secondary objective of this Action is to bring potential solutions for a long-term vision related to this problem:
- establish an integrated Europe-wide data collection infrastructure on travel and transport monitoring, based on the combined use of ITS data sources, survey sources and traditional traffic/loading counts;
- enhance the knowledge of the short, medium and long term interactions of individuals, firms, and institutions in transport / land use systems / lifestyles / economic factors / attitudes and perceptions;
- develop a formal theory of policy intervention, underpinned by empirical evidence on the behavioural response to policy measures, to determine how best to manage the transport system dynamically through time in a sustainable manner.
Sharing of data resources, methodological advances and empirical results is clearly more cost effective and beneficial from a research point of view. There is also a need to combine different data sources (surveys and administrative data), especially for comparative analyses between urban areas.
Traditionally transport data collection has focused on the production of net accounting statistics. However, for the proper assessment of change this is problematic, since changes occur in various directions, but in most instances the changes do not totally counterbalance each other: e.g. the urban sprawl and increase of number of households using more than one car. Population groups concerned by each of these movements are not the same, and their behaviour is not sensitive to the same factors (prices, regulations, etc.). Thus in order to understand the development over time and its determining factors, it is insufficient to look at the net changes; instead the behaviour of different individuals at different points in time must be considered. Concerning data collection and the related analytical methods, there are two main ways to address this question:
- by asking persons or firms how they would change their behaviour in the future ; these 'prospective methods' are Stated Preferences (SP), Stated Response (SR), etc.
- by observing these changes in the past on a long enough period ; these 'longitudinal methods' are based on panel surveys, repeated surveys or mobility biographies, and also on administrative data, because exhaustive censuses are progressively disappearing in Europe.
Referring to theoretical discussions about equilibrium, for a better understanding of the conditions of change, one cross-section (snapshot) is not enough: only repeated observations or "moving pictures of trajectories" (i.e. panel surveys) are adequate tools. The collection of such data is very costly and presents difficulties over the longer period; in addition their analysis is not straightforward (e.g., a clear assessment of what is due to transport supply and to the socioeconomic context).
Because of the difficulties listed above, relatively limited longitudinal data resources exist. One exception is the socio-demographic panel initiated by EUROSTAT in 1994, which is harmonised across European countries. Unfortunately, this survey contains little information on transport, with the exception of car ownership. Effort to collect and analyse panel data are being conducted separately in a number of European countries with the main documents in different languages, either mobility or car ownership panels and repeated surveys. This means there is a need to combine different data sources from several projects, dealing with mobility, time use and expenditure surveys and the EUROSTAT project concerned with developing statistical methods for sharing and combining transport, environment and health data.
Concerning freight transport, the collection of data aiming at the analysis of firms' behaviour has developed later than that for passengers'. The existing methods include:
- 'shipper and transport operator survey',
- detailed study of business decision making in the container transport industry, as part of the development of a new strategic freight model scheme
- innovative methods of quantitative firm survey, enabling the modelling of road occupancy for urban freight transport.
- survey on change of the transport of goods, investigating technological and organisational changes of both the production and the logistic chain in industrial firms.
Prospective methods, Stated Preferences and Stated Responses have been developed both for passengers and for freight and the Action will involve teams in these fields. There is also a common interest in methodological issues such as the optimising of sample schemes and the treatment and correction of non-sampling errors, such as non-response.
In addition several groups are actively involved in promoting new technologies for tracking (for vehicles, travellers or shipments), web-based methods for panel surveys and in the archiving and use of ITS data sources for assessment and monitoring of policy impacts.
This COST Action opens the opportunity to harmonise the design of mobility surveys, create comprehensive international databases, compare available analysis through different countries and disseminate acquired knowledge on mobility to different audiences, including national governmental decision-makers.
In this COST Action, the scope is limited to three crucial topics. For a sound administrative and scientific organisation, each of them is treated by a rather autonomous Working Group. Two levels of network membership are foreseen: the active participants in the Action through its Working Groups and Short Term Scientific Missions, and the people only interested in the outputs, which are essential for the dissemination. In parallel the user's demand will be established. It is important that long term and short-term issues correspond with the policy goals proposed by decision-makers.
Much research is carried out in Europe and elsewhere which is of relevance for the topic under study. It is important to learn from this and avoid duplication of work. Therefore after defining the methodological guidance, the second step will be an inventory of the various aspects of interest using state-of-the-art knowledge.
Freight Transport and Energy Consumption
The understanding of the determinants of demand in vehicle-kilometre as well as its consequences on energy consumption and pollution is much less satisfactory for freight than for passenger transport, although effective action in order to reduce the consequences of freight traffic requires a thorough understanding of the factors that motivate logistical choices. Conventional data sources on freight traffic (e.g. administrative data for inland waterways, information delivered by rail companies, truck surveys, etc.) are split mode by mode. The first step is to observe energy consumed for the transport of the shipment all along the chain for improving the analysis of intermodality. Further on, the whole supply chain has to be considered in the changing context of globalisation (e.g. industrial structure for different sectors) and its impact in urban areas as well as in corridors for long distance traffics.
Automobile (panel data analysis)
Although they are seldom available, panel data exist on transport (e.g. car ownership in the EUROSTAT socio-economic panel, car ownership and annual mileage, the German mobility panel, family expenditure surveys). The comparability of data collected through such different instruments has to be examined carefully. Specific issues of these survey designs have to be tackled, as well as methodologies adapted to the analysis of this kind of data (panel econometrics, duration modelling, etc.). Also advantages and drawbacks of true panel versus pseudo panel data have to be considered.
Case studies will focus on car dependence, sensitivity to fuel price, inequities, travel to work, land use and travel behaviour.
Overview of national transport surveys
Most of the data on mobility are collected through conventional instruments. The analysis of changes in behaviour supposes the comparability of these instruments over time, but also between countries and urban areas all over Europe. A first issue is whether these surveys are conducted from time to time (generally with increasing time intervals) or on a continuous basis in certain countries.
New technologies (e.g. mobile phone, GPS and Galileo) can help to improve the accuracy for time (departure, arrival, trip duration) and location (origin, destination, trip distance). Since all data needed for a comprehensive analysis of changes in behaviour cannot be collected in the same survey, pairing different data sources (e.g. trip based surveys with time use or family expenditure surveys) is an important issue.
The information obtained in Working Groups 1 to 3 will be summarised in a Final Report, presenting each Working Group together with conclusions and recommendations. The identified white spots will be described, which should be useful as input for future research. Specific dissemination tools have to be defined for various groups of recipients, particular emphasis given to the scientific community and practitioners (policy makers and industry), in order to help the orientation of firms' and households' behaviour towards more sustainable mobility.