Exploring the positive utility of travel and mode choice

Patrick Singleton, Portland State University


Traditionally, travel is considered a disutility to be minimized, and travel demand is derived from activity demand. Recently, scholars have questioned these axioms, noting that some people may like to travel, use travel time productively, find other benefits in traveling, or travel for non-utilitarian reasons. These are instances of “the positive utility of travel” (PUT). In this dissertation, I conceptually and empirically investigate PUT, its determinants, and its impacts on travel behavior. Using a questionnaire survey of commuters in Portland, Oregon, I collect primary data on PUT for use in a three-pronged analysis. First, I construct a measurement model of PUT and its various components. Second, I uncover traveler characteristics associated with PUT factors. Third, I tie everything together and examine the effects of PUT on commute mode choice. This study is one of the first to examine all components of PUT (travel activity and travel experience factors) at multiple levels (general, mode-specific, and trip-specific). It is also one of the first to analyze PUT’s impacts on mode choice. My research also has important implications for transportation planning and policy, by improving our knowledge of influences on (and forecasting of) sustainable modes and anticipating potential behavioral shifts with autonomous vehicles. 

Project Details

Project Type:
Project Status:
In Progress
End Date:
April 30,2017
UTC Grant Cycle:
Natl Dissertation Fellowships Spr. '16
UTC Funding: