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Implications of Habit Formation and Retention, and Perception of the Built Environment on Time Use, Travel Choice, and Location

Problem Statement
Researchers in fields such as environmental psychology, social learning, and public health have shown that human perception is a major shaper of behavior. Research is needed that explores the ability to transfer approaches from these disciplines to the understanding of the factors that influence travel and location choice. Ecological models used in public health explain factors that shape household- and person-level choices affecting human health. Decision-choice models used in environmental psychology predict how the built environment shapes perception and habits. Recent work on the interface between stated and revealed residential location and travel
choice processes suggest that habit formation and retention may override the anticipated travel benefits that are assumed to be gained from more transportation-efficient approaches to land development. That is, households that do relocate to more transit-supportive environments often continue to drive for most of their daily activities, although it is not known how long this habit persists.
Approaches to explaining behavior from social learning and psychology have been successfully applied to guide programmatic efforts to improve health and the environment. Efforts to reduce cigarette smoking and to promote recycling have been successful in achieving their behavioral objectives through mechanisms that effect the perceptions of the American public about their quality of life. Research is required that tests the adaptability of these approaches to understanding habit formation and retention to travel and location choice through a variety of survey and other research methods. This research is particularly important to improve our understanding of the factors that influence the choice to walk and bike for both utilitarian and recreational purposes. Nonmotorized travel is particularly sensitive to the ways in which we perceive the quality of the built environment in terms of aesthetics, safety, comfort, social interaction, and other factors.
This research is supported through recent advances in activity-based modeling targeted at improving the understanding of actual distributions of time across activities located in space. Human perception and habit formation are not foreign to transportation. Level of service is defined by the Institute of Transportation Engineers as a function of the perceived relationships between travel time and distance. Through this interdisciplinary lens, the research can enrich the dimensions and even theoretical approaches through which travel and land use decisions are viewed and modeled.

Proposed Research
This research will test and apply research methods developed in other areas of inquiry focused on understanding human behavior through a set of tasks that would include a review of literature and experiences, development of strategies and opportunities for the transference of theoretical and applied models of behavioral research, proposed strategies for data collection, pilot survey design, conducting survey, data analysis, and recommendations for future research.

Research components include:
1. A review of literature and best practices on the theoretical and applied approaches to modeling decision choice processes conducted within public health, social learning,
environmental psychology, marketing, architecture and behavior, and other disciplines.

2. Assessment of the possible transference of these theoretical and applied approaches to understanding human behavior, researching and explaining travel behavior, and the land use decision-making processes.
3. Creation of a set of analytical approaches to adapt research design, survey research, and descriptive and inferential approaches to data analysis to travel data collection and urban form modeling exercises.
4. Preparation of an interim report that summarizes these steps and proposes a research design that includes primary data collection or other approaches to elaborate on other ongoing research efforts to test the effects of perception and habit formation and retention on travel choice in general and nonmotorized travel in particular.
5. Execution of research design based on feedback and review of original design.
6. Analysis of data collected in a manner that emphasizes analytical approaches developed within other disciplines and summarization of findings regarding implications of research on the understanding of the role of perception and habit formation on travel choice.
7. Development of a proposed agenda for future research to enhance the state of the practice on travel choice and residential location processes within the context of interdisciplinary exchange.

Sponsoring Committee:AMS50, Economic Development and Land Use
Date Posted:08/08/2007
Date Modified:08/09/2007
Index Terms:Choice models, Mode choice, Location, Habits, Nonmotorized transportation, Travel behavior, Level of service, Aesthetics, Sustainable development,
Cosponsoring Committees: 
Pedestrians and Bicyclists
Public Transportation
Planning and Forecasting
Safety and Human Factors

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