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Incorporating the Influence of Latent Modal Preferences in Travel Demand Models

Abstract

Latent modal preferences, or modality styles, are defined as behavioral predispositions towards a certain travel mode or set of travel modes that an individual habitually uses. They are reflective of higher-level orientations, or lifestyles, that are hypothesized to influence all dimensions of an individual’s travel and activity behavior. For example, in the context of travel mode choice different modality styles may be characterized by the set of travel modes that an individual might consider when deciding how to travel, her sensitivity, or lack thereof, to different level-of-service attributes of the transportation (and land use) system when making that decision, and the socioeconomic characteristics that predispose her one way or another. Travel demand models currently in practice assume that individuals are aware of the full range of alternatives at their disposal, and that a conscious choice is made based on a tradeoff between perceived costs and benefits associated with alternative attributes. Heterogeneity in the choice process is typically represented as systematic taste variation or random taste variation to incorporate both observable and unobservable differences in sensitivity to alternative attributes. Though such a representation is convenient from the standpoint of model estimation, it overlooks the effects of inertia, incomplete information and indifference that are reflective of more profound individual variations in lifestyles built around the use of different travel modes and their concurrent influence on all dimensions of individual and household travel and activity behavior. 

The objectives of this dissertation are three-fold: (1) to develop a travel demand model framework that captures the influence of modality styles on multiple dimensions of individual and household travel and activity behavior; (2) to test that the framework is both methodologically flexible and empirically robust; and (3) to demonstrate the value of the framework to transportation policy and practice.

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