We asked people why they changed their mode of transport

Interview with the leaders of the USEmobility survey

Citizens of Austria, Belgium, Croatia, Germany, Hungary and the Netherlands were interviewed about their mobility behaviour in the last five years. The results showed that almost half of the population reported a change in their use of transport mode, a fact in dicating a highly dynamic mobility mix among European citizens. In all USEmobility countries there are significant differences in the choice of transport means depending on the travel purpose.

The highest dynamics of change can be found in work-related travel patterns. In Metropolitan areas, one registers in total an increase of public transport, while in the rural areas of the USEmobility countries modal shift tends towards an increased use of motorised individual transport. Now we talking to Mr. Thomas Krautscheid, Head of Quality Research and Klaus-R. Knuth, Head of Consulting at Quotas Ltd. who were both leaders of the project partners’ experts who de signed the survey and analysed the findings.

The USEmobility project applies a new bottom-up approach that directly identifies the reasons for behavioural change in mobility. The different factors that have an impact on the choice of transport mode were analysed including “Hard factors” like structure, technology and communications, as well as “soft factors” like socialisation and environmental awareness. What are the dominant hard factors and which soft factors influence EU citizens to switch from car use to public transport?

The classical hard factors influencing preferences in transport mode include reachability, costs, journey time, waiting times, number of transfers and frequency of connections. These have the highest relevance in both the decision to use public transport more frequently, or conversely, to quit using public transport. Regarding the so-called soft factors, highest relevance is found in flexibility, planning effort, availability of information and environmental friendliness.

How did you design the survey? What are the most important elements to reach the desired results?

The core concept behind the survey is the idea to rely on the users’ experiences with their mode of transport in the past rather than on their intentions for the future. The main element of the design is the ‘swing user’, i.e. a user that has reported an actual change in his / her mobility mix in the last five years. The USEmobility survey was designed to include information on why people increased or decreased not only their use of public transport but also motorised individual transport. The design was completed by a whole set of questions that enable us to precisely describe the group(s) of swing users.

Almost half of the population changed their preferred mode of transport. What were the main reasons for the shift in the choice of means of transport in the investigated USEmobility areas?

In general, a combination of different reasons leads to a change in travel behaviour. The main driver is, however, a change of the life situation, such as changing jobs or moving to another town. Nevertheless, the attractiveness of public transport (we called these factors ‘pull-in factors) and the dissatisfaction with the means of transport (we called them ‘push-out’ factors) used so far can also cause a change.

When people decide to shift, is it a result of a quick decision or a longer process?

We found a large group of people who changed their individual mobility-mix (complete change or change of intensity) and called them ‘swing users’. The changes take place in the group of swing users in ⅔ of the cases rather step-by-step and only in ⅓ of the cases overnight. While one finds less than 20% of swing users changing overnight in the age group of people in retirement, this proportion rises when one looks at younger swing users in the respective countries.

A vast majority of the swing users today (70%) use more than one transport mode i.e. they use them in a multimodal way. Only 30% are fixed on one mode of transport only. It shows the need of a good and attractive public transport service. Do the survey results show that this service should be developed?

In all countries, there is an important segment of swing users with a predominantly pragmatic attitude towards their choice of means of transport (about 25%) The behaviour of these mobility pragmatists is less governed by their mobility attitudes and more influenced by a good and attractive transport offer. A good transport offer is characterised by high-level ‘hard factors’ like nearby stops in residential areas and good reachability of destinations. But only in connection with an increased attractiveness of important ‘soft factors’ like high travel comfort and amenity values of transport (like atmosphere) as well as high flexibility of the offer (resulting from aspects like frequent departures or easy ticket transferability) will have a strong pull-in effect.

Environmental awareness is already quite strong among USEmobility swing users when it comes to frequent travel by bicycle or on foot, the reduction of unnecessary journeys (both over 50% of the swing users) or a fuel saving driving style (45%). What kind of plans do the EU citizens have to increase aspects of environmental awareness by country?

EU citizens plan to include environmental questions in their future car purchase considerations. To consider fuel saving cars and electro-mobility are frequently cited strategies. But also ‘soft strategies’ like, for example, to become more informed about environmentally-friendly transport or to organize recreational activities in an environmentally-friendly manner are set to be adopted in the future. Plans to consciously use public transport more often in a multimodal way are strongest in Croatia and Hungary.

According to the results, can you see other important difference between the Western and Eastern part of Europe?

Not in general, but it is interesting to see that the image profiles of public transport differ considerably between the countries. For example, in Croatia we find the most positive image of public transport. Swing Users in Croatia see public transport as nicer, simpler, stronger, faster and more peaceful, successful and modern than swing users in Western countries.

Who can benefit from the results of this survey?

The results of this survey can provide valuable insights to everyone working to achieve a behavioural change towards eco-friendly multimodal mobility. The USEmobility project has published a 240 page in-depth report (deliverable D3.6) which addresses decision makers from transportation companies as well as regional / national and European politicians. It also targets the civil society organisations of European citizens and many other interested groups including traffic experts and academic research units. The USEmobility database underlying the report and a number of tabulation volumes will serve a basis for future research and development in the months to come. On this basis, evaluations even more detailed can be made available for concerned bodies. With the survey results we have now a sound foundation for the strategic recommendations to be made later in our project.

What were the most interesting or unexpected results for you personally?

Firstly, we were surprised at how many people actually reported a change in their mobility mix in the last five years. Mobility behaviour is less fixed than we might have expected. Secondly, the strong influence of changes in the private situation was a very interesting discovery, since most discussions about mobility-changes focus on the transport offer and not on the personal situation of the user. It is very encouraging that the percentage of pragmatic users is high. However, being pragmatic does not mean being unemotional. It is remarkable to note that aspects of individual motorised transport are put in a much more emotional context than public transport, which has room for development here.

Mr. Thomas Krautscheid, Mr. Klaus-R. Knuth, thank you for this interview. Interview was made by Judit Varga


Facts on USEmobility survey

The USEmobility survey deals with mobility behaviour and its ongoing changes in six European countries. Which changes did happen in the mobility behaviour of European citizens in the last five years? What are their reasons for these changes? What is their current attitude towards the means of transport used? The main objective of the USEmobility survey is to understand what moves European citizens to use more environmentally friendly means of transport with an extended focus on public transport and – on the other hand – what keeps them from doing so. The USEmobility survey took place in six European countries in two phases in June / July 2011 and Sept/Oct 2011. For the survey, more than 10.000 interviews with swing users were performed in Austria, Belgium, Croatia, Germany, Hungary and the Netherlands. The survey is based on two parts, a representative general national survey with at least 1000 interviews per country with swing users who have changed their mobility behaviour and specific survey with swing users in ten selected regions / transport systems with at least 400 interviews per public transport system per region.

A report “Factors influencing behavioural change towards eco-friendly multimodal mobility” - 240 pages with results, figures and analyses is coming soon. It will be downloadable from the USEmobility website.