Promoting behavior change among campus commuters

Document Type

Conference Proceeding

Date of Original Version



This paper presents initial research findings of a multi-year, multi-site interdisciplinary project designed to promote alternative transportation (AT) and to encourage mode shift from single occupancy vehicle commuting to transit, carpooling, walking or biking. The research is designed to lay the groundwork towards developing effective interventions to promote transportation behavior change, especially for those who are currently not ready for such a change. This study of students and staff at two public universities in the Northeast is designed to develop and test the methodology of applying the Transtheoretical Model (TTM), to transportation behavior. This behavior change model has been highly successful in the area of health promotion. In this study, it is combined with geospatial modeling to maximize impact on commuters. Transportation surveys at two New England universities measured commute patterns, behaviors, attitudes towards AT and geographical information (e.g., residence locations) among university commuters. The authors assigned survey participants to one of five Stages of Change, a key TTM measure. Two additional constructs, Decisional Balance and Self-Efficacy, were also assessed. Participants' residence, demographics, and commuting information was collected and analyzed in light of TTM measures. At the two universities, students, staff and faculty showed different commute patterns and attitudes toward AT. Students displayed the most readiness to use AT according to the TTM. Students had the shortest commute distances and practiced AT more frequently compared to staff and faculty. Overall, commute distance negatively influenced both the use of and readiness to adopt AT. Other geographic location factors also affected AT usage and commuters' behavior and attitudes toward AT. Using geospatial models, the authors identified many AT users and greater readiness to use AT in towns where there was adequate public transit connectivity to the campuses. Commuters who lived near transit stops were more likely to use AT as their primary transportation mode. When comparing the two universities, there were more AT commuters in the university with a more developed transit system. The impact of the transit system was greater among students than among faculty and staff. The assessment of AT behaviors provides a foundation for developing transportation interventions to promote AT usage, not only within, but also beyond the campus setting. This work will permit targeting not only current AT users, but those who are not yet ready to use AT, and move them towards greater readiness to change their commuting behavior. An important finding in this pilot study is that the survey data for AT fit the TTM based model, which has been successfully applied to numerous other behaviors. Once implemented, this model and interventions based on it have has great promise of being scaled to a modal shift among commuters outside a campus environment. The authors are currently developing interventions which will provide individualized targeting of commuters based on TTM and geospatial information. Once developed, these interventions could provide an effective and low-cost, individualized way to reach commuters and to encourage sustainable transportation. This project can help transportation professionals change commuter behavior in a time of limited resources and increasing interest in encouraging mode change to reduce traffic, conserve fuel, and promoting active transportation modes. © (2012) by the Transportation Research Forum All rights reserved.

Publication Title, e.g., Journal

53rd Annual Transportation Research Forum, TRF 2012



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