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Waikato commuters committed to their travel mode of choice - cars

24 January 2020

Waikato people are wedded to their cars and although they want to use more sustainable travel choices, they believe it’s too hard, a new study from the University of Waikato has found.

The study by Rathee Sivasubramaniyam, Professor Samuel Charlton and Rebecca Sargisson of the University’s Transport Research Group, was published in Travel Behaviour and Society and investigated commuters’ travel mode choice and their commitment to their preferred mode, through a detailed survey of 585 Waikato people over the age of 16.

Professor Charlton said he was surprised by the study’s results which illustrated how committed people were to their travel choices, but he added the study also revealed a small window of opportunity that existed to encourage people out of their cars.

“Waikato people are incredibly wedded to their cars. We found that people who drive cars, drive cars because they drive their car for everything. It doesn’t matter if they’re going around the block or to Auckland, they use their car,” he said.

But the study had also shown there was a small window of opportunity to change commuters’ behaviour, which they were researching further.

“We found the time you could shift people and get them to think about other modes of transport was when they move jobs or schools, or they shift houses. It’s that first little window, because once they’ve made their decision about how to get to work, they don’t revisit it again because it’s easy. They have made their decision.”

The second part of their study would look at decision making and satisficing, a term used to describe how people often make decisions that are easy and good enough, rather than the absolute best outcome for themselves and society.

He said the initial study found car drivers’ level of commitment to using their car was much higher than people who cycle or who use public transport, the survey revealing why it is often difficult to get people to use these more sustainable commuting modes.

And while the study had also shown there was a desire by all commuters to be more sustainable and choose more sustainable travel, a large portion of the population believed they didn’t have the option for more sustainable travel choices, or it wasn’t safe enough.

“We learnt although people have a desire to be more sustainable, they feel it’s too dangerous to ride their bike and for public transport the perception is there’s not quite enough buses and they don’t quite go where they need them to go.”

Professor Charlton said it suggested more work was needed to change or improve those issues for commuters or to help people understand what choices they do have for more sustainable travel options.

He said there was an opportunity to work closer with employers around commuter travel choices particularly when they recruited new staff because getting to work was now part of workplace safety.

“There is an opportunity to work with employers. New Health and Safety legislation means employers have a duty of care to make sure their employees get to work safely and not just safely but I think also economically and sustainably.”

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