Travel time use in the Information Age

Project details

Full project title: Travel time use in the Information age

Sponsor: EPSRC (Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council)

Principal Investigator: Professor Glenn Lyons

Researchers: Laura Watts/Dr Juliet Jain

Project Partner: Centre for Mobilities Research, Lancaster University (CeMoRe)

CeMoRe Principal Investigator: Professor John Urry

Start date: February 2004

Finish date: August 2007

Project website: Travel time use in the information age

Project report: Download the final project report, as submitted to the EPSRC.

Project summary

We exist in a society within which 'life on the move' is increasingly common and supported by a growing array of mobile information and communication technologies. In the UK and other countries as mobility levels continue to grow, a trend in 'further and faster' is prevailing.

This project has addressed an area that has hitherto received little or no attention - namely people's use of time when they are on the move. This is something which is poorly understood and yet has potentially significant implications for transport policy and for the way our transport systems and their use continue to evolve.

Since the 1960s the basic treatment of travel time within appraisal of new transport schemes has remained the same - travel time is unproductive wasted time and, accordingly, savings in travel time typically constitute the majority of the benefit derived from a scheme. In transport modelling trips and activities are treated as separate entities, with the former merely a means to undertaking the latter. Many subscribe to the view that a travel time budget exists across societies - ie at the aggregate level the amount of time spent travelling each day is remarkably constant. This research has challenged these conventions with a starting assumption that travel time is (increasingly) being used productively as activity time.

The research has developed an evidence-based understanding of travel time use and in turn explored ways in which this might be positively exploited.

This has been a joint project with the Centre for Mobilities Research (CeMoRe) at Lancaster University. As such it has marked a novel but effective coming together of two relatively new research groups - a transport group with an interest in social science approaches and a social science group with an interest in transport.

The objectives of the research were as follows:

  1. to establish an account of current understanding, within the academic community and wider transport profession, of travel time use;
  2. to adopt a multidisciplinary approach to identifying key issues relating to the nature, extent and implications of travel time use in practice across different modes;
  3. to collect empirical evidence and establish a developed and more complete understanding of travel time use;
  4. to consult with stakeholders and potential beneficiaries so as to explore opportunities to exploit productive travel time use to positive ends; and
  5. to report the research findings widely and produce recommendations targeted at transport operators, policymakers and the research community.