Skip to main content
Open Access Publications from the University of California

Wanting to Travel, More or Less: Exploring the Determinants of the Deficit and Surfeit of Personal Travel

  • Author(s): Choo, Sangho
  • Collantes, Gustavo O.
  • Mokhtarian, Patricia L.
  • et al.

Do people actually want to travel? Not according to the conventional wisdom of the transportation profession, which holds that travel is purely a disutility to be minimized. The fundamental demand (as the common thinking goes) is to participate in various activities that happen to be spatially diverse, and travel is only tolerated as a necessary "evil" means for achieving the desired end. Although many in the profession realize that this assumption is a simplification of reality, many others accept it almost as an article of faith. Even those who understand it to be only an approximation generally believe it to be an adequate one, and until recently there has been little effort to empirically test this belief.

Building on insights previously expressed by others (e.g., Jones, 1978; Reichman, 1976; Hupkes, 1982), we have begun a multi-faceted study of the positive utility of travel, that challenges the notion of travel as purely a derived demand. Early papers in this series (Salomon and Mokhtarian, 1998; Mokhtarian and Salomon, 2001) focused on the conceptual basis for such a positive utility. Three components to the utility of travel were identified: (1) the conventional component – the utility of arriving at a desired destination; (2) the utility of activities that can be conducted while traveling (listening to music, talking to a companion, thinking or relaxing, potentially talking on a mobile phone, working on a laptop, or reading); and (3) the utility intrinsic to travel itself. The third component of utility involves psychological needs or motivations such as the enjoyment of movement itself (including, but not exclusively, the enjoyment of speed), curiosity or information-seeking, variety-seeking, a need for escape, a need for independence or desire for freedom, the satisfaction of skillfully handling a vehicle, and the "display" of travel or a vehicle as a status symbol. While even most transportation professionals would readily acknowledge the role of these motivations in the demand for leisure or discretionary travel, we contend that those same motivations are at work to some extent in the demand for daily mandatory and maintenance travel – and that it is important to inquire further into the question of "to what extent".

Main Content
Current View