Publication Detail

Driving by Choice or Necessity?

UCD-ITS-RP-05-29

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Suggested Citation:
Handy, Susan L., Lisa Weston, Patricia L. Mokhtarian (2005) Driving by Choice or Necessity?. Transportation Research Part A 39 (3), 183 - 203

From just about all accounts, Americans are driving more than ever, not just to work but to shopping, to school, to soccer practice and band practice, to visit family and friends, and so on. Americans also seem to be complaining more than ever about how much they driveā€”or, more accurately, how much everyone else drives. However, the available evidence suggests that a notable share of their driving is by choice rather than necessity. Although the distinction between choice and necessity is not always so clear, it is important for policy makers. For necessary trips, planners can explore ways of reducing the need for or length of the trip or ways of enhancing alternatives to driving. For travel by choice, the policy implications are much trickier and touch on basic concepts of freedom of choice. This paper first develops a framework for exploring the boundary between choice and necessity based on a categorization of potential reasons for and sources of "excess driving", and then uses in-depth one-on-one interviews guided by this framework to characterize patterns of excess driving. This research contributes to a deeper understanding of travel behavior and provides a basis for developing policy proposals directed at reducing the growth in driving.