Read out

Stefanie Peer

Video Stefanie Peer

Stefanie Peer

Researcher of the Month

Com­muters will­ing to pay more for shorter travel times when driv­ing

On aver­age, Aus­tri­ans spend over an hour a day com­mut­ing. In her cur­rent re­search, WU trans­port econom­ist Stefanie Peer in­vestig­ates how com­muters make mobil­ity-re­lated de­cisions, espe­cially with regard to choice of trans­port mode and ar­rival time. Her res­ults showed that Aus­tri­ans are more will­ing to pay for re­duced travel times when trav­el­ling by car than with pub­lic trans­port­a­tion.

Stefanie Peer, a re­searcher at WU’s In­sti­tute for Mul­ti-­Level Gov­ernance and Devel­op­ment, in­vestig­ated in several stud­ies how travel times are val­ued based on dif­fer­ent modes of trans­port­a­tion (private car, rail, local pub­lic trans­port­a­tion, bi­cycle, walk­ing), time-re­lated aspects (short- or long-term), and dif­fer­ent groups of people. The main fo­cus was on travel time. “Valu­ation shows what people are pre­pared to pay to re­duce travel time, giv­ing them more time for other activ­it­ies. Cur­rent stud­ies show that when trav­el­ling con­di­tions are com­fort­able, people are less in­clined to pay more for shorter travel times than when con­di­tions are un­com­fort­able,” says Peer.

Pub­lic trans­port­a­tion: More com­fort, lower mo­tiv­a­tion to pay more

For her re­search, Peer util­ized data that rep­res­ents in­di­vidual de­cision-­mak­ing with regard to mobil­ity, like sur­veys or cel­lu­lar GPS re­cords. She also gathered data from ex­per­i­ments us­ing both hy­po­thet­ical de­cisions and real-life situ­ations in which sub­jects were offered in­cent­ives to change their mobil­ity habits. Based on this data, Peer developed econo­met­ric mod­els to ex­plain the mobil­ity be­ha­vior she ob­served. Un­like pre­vi­ous stud­ies, Peer’s re­search showed that Aus­tri­ans are will­ing to pay more for shorter trav­el­ling times when driv­ing, as com­pared to trav­el­ling by pub­lic trans­port­a­tion. “This leads to the con­clu­sion that if trav­el­ling times are the same, people prefer to spend time in pub­lic trans­port­a­tion rather than a car. This ob­ser­va­tion ap­plies to all seg­ments of the pop­u­la­tion, regard­less of age, gender, or in­come level,” says Peer. These find­ings re­flect the high qual­ity of pub­lic trans­port­a­tion and the fact that us­ing pub­lic trans­port­a­tion al­lows trav­el­ers more op­por­tun­it­ies to use trav­el­ling time pro­duct­ively and com­fort­ably by work­ing on their laptops, smart­phones, etc.

Peer’s stud­ies also show that trav­el­ling time is given more weight in long-term mobil­ity de­cisions than in situ­ational, on-the-spot de­cisions made at de­par­ture time. This is prob­ably be­cause the time freed up by reg­u­larly se­lect­ing modes with a shorter trav­el­ling time can be bet­ter planned and used than the ex­tra time res­ult­ing from short-term de­cisions.

Im­port­ant basis for trans­port­a­tion policy de­cisions

Valu­ations of travel time and travel com­fort are de­cid­ing factors in de­termin­ing whether in­vest­ments in in­fra­struc­ture pro­jects and other trans­port­a­tion policy meas­ures make eco­nomic sense. “In this type of cost-be­ne­fit ana­lysis, valu­ations of travel time and com­fort are con­sul­ted on the one hand to de­termine the mon­et­ary value of travel time and com­fort, and on the other hand to make pre­dic­tions about how changes in these factors will af­fect user num­bers, or in other words, de­mand for ser­vices,” ex­plains Peer. “Our re­search res­ults show that these valu­ations de­pend, among other factors, on the type of trans­port­a­tion mode and the time aspect, and need to be used in a con­tex­t-spe­cific man­ner in cost-be­ne­fit ana­lyses.” The trans­port econom­ist criti­cizes the fact that this need for con­text is rarely ad­dressed in prac­tice, which can lead to a dis­tor­tion in the res­ults of cost-be­ne­fit ana­lyses.

See the study