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How Derived is the Demand for Travel? Some Conceptual and Measurement Considerations

UCD-ITS-RP-01-15

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Suggested Citation:
Mokhtarian, Patricia L. and Ilan Salomon (2001) How Derived is the Demand for Travel? Some Conceptual and Measurement Considerations. Transportation Research Part A 35 (8), 695 - 719

This paper contests the conventional wisdom that travel is a derived demand, at least as an absolute. Rather, we suggest that under some circumstances, travel is desired for its own sake. We discuss the phenomenon of undirected travel – cases in which travel is not a byproduct of the activity but itself constitutes the activity. The same reasons why people enjoy undirected travel (a sense of speed, motion, control, enjoyment of beauty) may motivate them to undertake excess travel even in the context of mandatory or maintenance trips. One characteristic of undirected travel is that the destination is ancillary to the travel rather than the converse which is usually assumed. We argue that the destination may be to some degree ancillary more often than is realized. Measuring a positive affinity for travel is complex: in self-reports of attitudes toward travel, respondents are likely to confound their utility for the activities conducted at the destination, and for activities conducted while traveling, with their utility for traveling itself. Despite this measurement challenge, preliminary empirical results from a study of more than 1900 residents of the San Francisco Bay Area provide suggestive evidence for a positive utility for travel, and for a desired travel time budget (TTB). The issues raised here have clear policy implications: the way people will react to policies intended to reduce vehicle travel will depend in part on the relative weights they assign to the three components of a utility for travel. Improving our forecasts of travel behavior may require viewing travel literally as a "good" as well as a "bad" (disutility).