Conceptual and methodological approaches to representing, understanding, analysing and modelling travel behaviour

Lead Research Organisation: Imperial College London
Department Name: Civil & Environmental Engineering


The conceptualisation, measurement and modelling of individual behaviour is at the heart of many challenges in social science research and practice, and is identified as a priority area for ESRC investment in its Strategic Plan for 2009-14. In transport, the analysis and modelling of individual behaviour is central to policy development and investment appraisal, which means that research in this area has scope for direct influence on policy outcomes.

The way we think about travel behaviour and the multitude of social practices associated with and facilitated by travel has changed fundamentally over the past 50 years, evolving from an actuarial accounting of isolated trips and flows to an understanding of travel as part of the complex pattern of activity planning and participation, undertaken with multiple objectives and played out over a range of different times scales. These changes have in turn importantly influenced the way that practical transport modelling and demand analysis has been undertaken. As our conceptualisation of travel behaviour has changed, so new challenges for measurement and modelling have been presented, and likewise, as new conceptual;, measurement and modelling capabilities have been developed within the social sciences and elsewhere, they have made possible the operationalisation of richer theoretical and conceptual understandings of travel behaviour. To date, however, these interactions have been episodic and fragmented and have drawn on a relatively limited range of social science inputs.

The objective of this research scanning exercise is to bring together communities of social science and transport researchers to consider these challenges in a more holistic manner, to take stock of the current array of conceptual and methodological approaches available, anticipate likely future directions of development for the field and thereby to actively stimulate creative interaction between the social sciences and those working in key application areas such as transport. The exercise will proceed through a series of meetings and workshops, bringing together leading experts from transport and the social sciences, and through commissioned review papers and linked to a range of dissemination and follow up activities.

Planned Impact

The project will lay the foundation for significance advance in the analysis and modelling of individual travel behaviour within the transport domain, and more widely. The groups affected by these impacts will include:

1. The travel demand modelling community which will be enriched with new theoretical and methodological insights
2. The quantitative social science community
3. Central Governement and Local Authorities who draw on the travel demand modelling skills and services
4. Transport operators and service providers who also draw on the travel demand modelling skills and services

In addition to standard dissemination channels via peer reviewed academic publications and publication in professional journals, there are a number of other mechanisms by which we seek to enhance the impact of the work:

1. A set of four Research and Policy Briefing papers, based on the outputs of the four workshops.
2. Four commissioned resource papers revolving around the themes of the four workshops, authored by experts in their respective fields.
3. The synthesis workshop, which will serve to communicate the activities of the research, and invite participation from a wide range of potential stakeholders.
4. Follow up research proposals to the ESRC and other relevant funders.


10 25 50
Description Batley's appointment to DfT's JADP
Geographic Reach National 
Policy Influence Type Participation in a advisory committee
Description Polak's membership of DfT's Road Reform Expert Group
Geographic Reach National 
Policy Influence Type Participation in a advisory committee
Description ES/J007447/1 - Workshops 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact A series of 6 workshops were organised.

Workshop 1: Perspectives from academia, practice and policy on 'Conceptual and Methodological Approaches to Representing, Understanding, Analysing and Modelling Travel Behaviour'. This was held as part of the European Transport Conference in Glasgow, and was organised around keynote presentations by Jonas Eliasson (KTH, Sweden), Gerard Whelan (MVA Consultancy, UK) and Neil Shorten (Department for
Transport, UK).

Workshop 2: Conceptual developments in terms of the understanding of movement and its role within everyday social practices, building on theories from sociology, environmental psychology and behavioural geography. This was held at Imperial College London, and
featured keynote presentations by Theo Arentze (Eindhoven University of Technology, The Netherlands) and Juan Carrasco (University of Concepcion, Chile)

Workshop 3: Theories of individual decision making building on work in economic psychology and behavioural economics, experimental economics, marketing and broadly the decision sciences. Keynote speaker was Caspar Chorus (TU Delft, The Netherlands).
Again the workshop was held at Imperial College London.

Workshop 4: Developments in the data collection methods available to researchers to measure various aspects of travel behaviour, including both quantitative and qualitative techniques. This workshop featured a keynote presentation by Nadine Shüssler (ETH
Zurich, Switzerland), and was hosted in Leeds as part of the International Choice Modelling Conference.

Workshop 5: Developments in econometric, statistical and computing methods for the analysis of individual level data. This workshop was stimulated by a keynote presentation from Stephane Hess (University of Leeds, UK), and was held at Imperial College London.

Workshop 6: A synthesis workshop, held at Imperial College London, presented our findings to representatives of the practitioner and policy communities, focusing especially upon the implications for research and practice.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2011