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Open Access Publications from the University of California

A Utility-Theory-Consistent System-of-Demand-Equations Approach to Household Travel Choice


Modeling personal travel behavior is complex, particularly when one tries to adhere closely to actual causal mechanisms while predicting human response to changes in the transport environment. There has long been a need for explicitly modeling the underlying determinant of travel - the demand for participation in out-of-home activities; and progress is being made in this area, primarily through discrete-choice models coupled with continuous-duration choices. However, these models tend to be restricted in size and conditional on a wide variety of other choices that could be modeled more endogenously.

This dissertation derives a system of demands for activity participation and other travel-related goods that is rigorously linked to theories of utility maximization. Two difficulties inherent in the modeling of travel - the discrete nature of many travel-related demands and the formal recognition of a time budget, not just a financial one - are dealt with explicitly. The dissertation then empirically evaluates several such demand systems, based on flexible specifications of indirect utility. The results provide estimates of activity generation and distribution and of economic parameters such as demand elasticities. Several hypotheses regarding travel behavior are tested, and estimates are made of welfare effects generated by changes in the travel environment.

The models presented here can be extended to encompass more disaggregate consumption bundles and stronger linkages between consumption of out-of-home activities and other goods. The flexibility and strong behavioral basis of the approach make it a promising new direction for travel demand modeling.

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