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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Consumer E-Commerce, Virtual Accessibility and Sustainable Transport

  • Author(s): Gould, Jane;
  • Golob, Thomas F.
  • et al.

The growth of the Internet has rekindled interest in the relationship between communications and travel. New communication technologies have expanded the range, the type, and the number of transactions that can take place without travel. A number of promotions capture the new tradeoffs between communications and travel: initially, the Internet was referred to as “the information superhighway” and Microsoft ran an ad campaign dubbed “where do you want to go today?” The connection between travel and bytes has been summed up as “The Death of Distance” (Cairncross, 1997). A parallel evolution in telecommunication and transportation was envisioned more than 150 years ago with the inventions of the telegraph and telephone. The telephone was expected to “speed the movement of perishable goods,” “reduce the travels of salesmen,” and “let (itinerant) workers stay at home to be phoned for jobs” (Pool, 1983). Today, the Internet has fueled similar expectations, and many of them center on travelrelated issues. The Internet might relieve demand for new road capacity, slow down the rate of new vehicle ownership, and divert existing travel trips to less congested times. The Internet might help create more sustainable growth in transportation, by providing virtual accessibility. In this paper, we explore the transportation aspects of consumer electronic commerce (e-commerce). Shopping activities are currently automobileintensive in many countries, and increases in e-commerce could portend important changes in transportation patterns and activities.

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