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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Dynamics in Behavioral Adaptation to a Transportation Innovation: A Case Study of Carlink–A Smart Carsharing System

  • Author(s): Shaheen, Susan
  • et al.

Most trips in U.S. metropolitan regions are drive-alone car trips, an expensive and inefficient means of moving people. A more efficient system would allow drivers to share cars. Such a system is often less convenient for travelers, but convenience can be enhanced by deploying “smart” technologies in concert with shared-use vehicles and transit. The motivation for this research is to determine how the use of information and communication technologies can enhance flexibility and mobility—and what value travelers will place on these new transportation means. My dissertation, using new survey research methods, examines CarLink, a smart carsharing service designed and deployed under my direction. This dissertation integrates social marketing and learning theories with human activity analysis approaches to explain the processes by which travelers can and might accept a transportation innovation. I focus on methods of presentation and learning to examine response dynamics. To explain the CarLink system to consumers, I developed several informational media: a brochure, video, and “trial” clinic. My dissertation is based on a longitudinal survey of responses to informational media that I conducted with San Francisco Bay Area residents in the summer of 1998. The survey results provide the attitudinal and belief data needed to evaluate dynamics in an individual’s learning and valuing response to an innovation. To assist in evaluation and interpretation, I also conducted four focus groups, which I moderated, in October 1998. I found that willingness to use CarLink was influenced by the amount and type of exposure, as predicted by social marketing and learning theories. Informational media were used to teach targeted groups, and behavioral modeling (e.g., the video and drive clinic) was introduced to develop participants’ confidence in adopting new behaviors. For instance, participants who only read the brochure lost interest over time, while a large majority of those who read the brochure, watched the video, and participated in the clinic, stated that they would use CarLink. I documented the process by which individuals moved through definable stages in the behavioral adoption model, from precontemplation to contemplation, and in many cases into action.

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