What is your acceptable commute time?

Have you ever thought what is your acceptable commute time? A Google search on the term “acceptable commute time” returns a long list of people’s posts discussing (views on) their acceptable commute time (see here). It is true that quite frequently people consider a potential destination as not realistic choice compared to others, because it would require too much time to reach it or simply as people put it “this is too far for me”.  

The obvious question that arises here is how someone decides how far is too far to travel to a particular destination. In other words, do people identify an acceptable travel time for each trip they want to make?

We explored this question in two articles. In the first article, published in Journal of Transport Geography (2015, available here) we developed the theoretical concept of acceptable travel time and explored the validity of the concept based on semi-structured in-depth interviews with a stratified, according to commuting mode, random sample of 20 individuals living in Berkeley, CA. We assumed that the behavioural threshold of acceptable travel time is defined through utilitarian processes that involve both cognitive and affective evaluations of travel that have developed over a person’s lifetime (see figure 1 below). Our results supported the validity of the acceptable travel time concept providing insights into people’s perceptions, attitudes, feelings and experiences about their travel.

Figure 1. The variation of intrinsic, derived and total utility with travel time, and the three main periods of a one-way trip (growth, tolerance, decay) in terms of total utility changes according to the acceptable travel time concept (X-axis: Time – T; Y-axis: Utility – U).

In our sequel paper, recently published in Transport Policy (2018, available here) we replicated our Berkeley, CA study in Delft, The Netherlands to further explore the validity of the acceptable travel time concept, compare results between Delft and Berkeley, and to identify possible factors influencing the acceptable travel time. The results of this second study offered further support to the validity of the concept. Moreover, we presented a conceptual framework for factors influencing acceptable travel time (see figure 2 below). 

Figure 2: A conceptual model for factors influencing derived and intrinsic utility, and 
next the acceptable travel time.

What is next? There are several avenues for future research on the acceptable travel time (e.g. further theoretical validation through possible connection with behavioural economics and empirical validation through a large scale quantitative study).

What I find really fascinating though is possible application of acceptable travel time in urban and transport planning. To what extent the acceptable travel time concept could be used in urban and transport planning to define development thresholds? And which could be the possible effects on transport projects assessment if such a non-linear valuation of travel time would be applied?

Professor David Hensher, Director of the Institute of Transport and Logistics Studies (ITLS), University of Sydney Business School provides some first insights on the question about application of acceptable travel time in urban and transport planning. He speaks to ABC NewsRadio's Cathy Bell about the results of the ITLS Transport Opinion Survey (March 2016, available here), which identified a 37 minutes commute time that Australians could tolerate each way on a daily basis.  

You can listen
Professor Hensher's interview to ABC NewsRadio's here

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