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Why should we think more actively about our travel choices? 

When you’re standing on the train platform, do you think about why you chose that route to work?  How many other possible ways could there be to get to your destination?  What is important to you when you’re making decisions - cost, convenience, flexibility, or perhaps you’re just looking for a detour out of the urban jungle?

When it comes to making travel choices, whether we realise it or not, we think like scientists: we analyse all the available options and we pick one that suit our needs the most.  We often do this without realising.  We evaluate the same journey each time we take it and make gradual improvements, but this means we are less likely to consider other options as the journey becomes habitual.

How do we make decisions?

Today, when planning a trip from Birmingham to Edinburgh, we have at least four options to get there. Our decision depends on a variety of factors such as journey time, congestion, cost, comfort and personal satisfaction. These vary from person to person, from journey to journey.  For example, the cheapest option is favoured by some, whereas others may prefer to take a more expensive option in favour of a shorter journey time. The factors we consider change over time and reflect the changes in our lives. A new job or moving home gives us the opportunity to choose new modes of transport and new routes to take.

The future of transport

Impact of the sharing economy

We are generally happy to share with friends or family, but there are some things we won’t share with others, especially not with strangers. Attitudes towards transport sharing are changing as it provides an alternative to public transport with shorter journey times, and models like ride-sharing are growing in popularity and improving car use efficiency. However, public safety considerations will always prevent some of us riding with strangers. As with any changes, we can decide whether or not to adopt these new approaches.

How data influences our travel choices? 

The decisions we make rely on data. Mobile apps, social media and even sharing experiences with others all add to the data we collect about our journeys. The more data sources we consider, the more informed our decisions are.

We are implicitly and explicitly generating data about our position, transport plans and attitudes towards transport services. We can be an important source of information about conditions around us such as delays or adverse weather, both by high-tech methods such as GPS or via more traditional methods such as dialling into a radio station to provide traffic information.

Our travel choices will become more varied in the near future with technology enabling us to make more informed choices about how we travel. It is more important to understand the psychology behind our choices and their impacts on transport trends. This will help policy makers understand why people might react differently to new developments and ultimately ensure a smoother adoption of new innovations such as self-driving.

Please read our latest publication of evidence reviews where we explore further.

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