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Conference Paper ESRC Transport Studies Unit Final Conference, Sep 2004, UK. (Unpublished)

Changing travel behaviour


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TSU: The Transport Studies Unit, established since 1973 at Oxford University, was awarded the status of a designated research centre of the ESRC from 1994 to 2004. The research programme, initially focussed on traffic growth and the development of dynamic methodologies, was launched at a Linacre Lecture in Oxford which attracted much press attention for its comments on induced traffic. The Unit transferred to University College London in January 1996. After a successful mid-term review, the second five year programme focussed on the process of behavioural change and appraisal tools. ESRC funding and designation came to an end in September 2004 with an exceptionally well-attended final event in London on ‘Changing Travel Behaviour’, which constituted a suitably unifying theme bringing together a large proportion of the Unit’s research projects. Appreciations were given by many of the leading stakeholders in transport policy and research, with an audience of over 400 academics and practitioners. Shortly after, the ESRC Transport Studies Unit disbanded as an entity. The seven researchers who had carried out the programme are now continuing their activities at six different locations in three countries, though maintaining contact and continuing to disseminate and extend the results of the ten years work. Transport research of course continues at both Oxford University (TSU in the School of Geography) and UCL (CTS in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering). The ambiguity of ‘changing’: The phrase ‘changing travel behaviour’ is ambiguous - changing as a description of what actually happens, and changing as an active intent by public or private agencies. The twin underlying propositions are that travel behaviour does change, and by understanding this travel behaviour can be changed. There is a third, implied statement, that travel behaviour should be changed. This goes beyond the research programme. All three statements are controversial, but the controversies are resolved by different methods, from empirical and theoretical analysis to public debate. All three underpin the need to understand the processes of behavioural change, and to incorporate this understanding in the tools for appraising both transport investment and - as became apparent during the period of the research - other transport policies as well. The logical structure used for this report (in part developed retrospectively in the course of planning for the TSU final event) has five parts: (1) establish the nature of the changes in travel behaviour that have actually happened; (2) consider the specific effects of two of the most important general influences, namely income, and demographic forces; (3) 2 consider the evidence on the effect of transport policy, including both investment and non-investment initiatives. Those studied include new opportunities such as park-and-ride, increases and reductions in road capacity, increases and reductions in public transport fares and motoring costs, the effects of soft measures such as travel plans and information provision; (4) consider some theoretical and practical understanding of the nature of changes in behaviour; (5) discuss the policy implications of the work


Environmental Sociology, Public Policy, and Transport



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