Publication Detail

Does Travel-Based Multitasking Influence Commute Mode Choice? An Investigation of Northern California Commuters


Research Report

Suggested Citation:
Malokin, Aliaksandr, Patricia L. Mokhtarian, Giovanni Circella (2015) Does Travel-Based Multitasking Influence Commute Mode Choice? An Investigation of Northern California Commuters. Institute of Transportation Studies, University of California, Davis, Research Report UCD-ITS-RR-15-41

Transportation mode choice modeling has been a well-established area of practice and research for several decades. In the current state of the art, choice is modeled as a function of objective travel characteristics (e.g., in-vehicle travel time, travel cost), individual socio-economic properties of a decision maker (e.g., age, income, car ownership) and (sometimes) personal attitudes. The common premise in these models is the universal disutility of travel time, which travelers seek to minimize, thus increasing their time spent doing activities at locations. However, the modern realization of the multitasking phenomenon, which promises to bring improved productivity and/or satisfaction through overlapping multiple activities “at the same time”, portends changing patterns of time use, and especially (in our context) of travel time use. There is a sizable and growing literature on multitasking in general, and in contexts such as the work environment or “media multitasking” in particular. Still, the investigation of the activities conducted while traveling, and their impact on traveler’s choices, is a smaller but also expanding area of research.

In this study, we investigate the impact of travel-based multitasking (i.e., the engagement in additional activities while traveling) on the utility of travel, in particular during commuting trips. At the margin, individuals may choose transit (i.e., an attention-passive mode) over a shorter automobile trip, if thereby they are able to overlap travelling with other activities that increase their daily productive output and trip satisfaction. The recent advancements toward partly/fully automated vehicles are poised to further revolutionize the perceived utility of some travel options, increasing the ability to use travel time productively in cars, thus further blurring the role of travel as a crisp transition between location-based activities.

Accordingly, this study aims to address the following research question: how and to what extent do the ability and propensity to perform tasks “on-the-go” influence an individual’s evaluation of the utility of various travel modes? To quantify this effect, we created and administered a survey that collected information on multitasking attitudes and behavior while commuting, together with information about commute patterns, personal travel attitudes, mode-specific perceptions, and standard socioeconomic traits. The total sample size exceeded 2,000 respondents recruited among Northern California commuters.

Presented at International Choice Modelling Conference 2015, Austin, TX, May 10-13, 2015