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Telecommunications and Travel



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The potential of telecommunications technology to affect travel behavior has been perceived at least since the invention of the telephone. However, the so-called information revolution of the 1990s has not been accompanied by a noticeable decrease in travel. To help understand the relationship between telecommunications and travel behavior, researchers have found it useful to view transportation and telecommunications as alternate modes of communication. Specifically, communication can occur in three main ways: face-to-face, involving passenger transportation; through the transfer of an information object, such as a book, letter, diskette, or videotape; or through telecommunication. Several different relationships can be identified among these alternate modes: substitution (elimination, replacement), generation (stimulation, complementarity), modification, and neutrality. Complementarity can result from either the use of one mode that encourages or directly involves the use of another mode (enhancement) or from the use of one mode that makes the use of another mode more efficient. Forecasting the impacts of information and communication technology on travel involves two stages. The first stage is to model the adoption of the technology by examining how many people will adopt a certain product, service, or application; what kinds of people they are; how intensively and under what circumstances the technology will be used; and how long the technology will be used. The second stage is to examine the travel-related effects of adopting that technology: direct and indirect, short term and long term. This paper reviews key findings in these areas and outlines directions for future research.
This paper is available on the CD-ROM, Transportation in the New Millennium: State of the Art and Future Directions, Perspectives from Transportation Research Board Standing Committees. It is also available on the TRB Website.