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Open Access Publications from the University of California

The Value of Wireless Internet Connection on Trains: Implications for Mode-Choice Models


Deployment of advanced technologies has enabled wireless internet access for commuters on various transportation modes. Such networked environments have enabled riders to engage in productive activities in transit. The ability to perform activities while traveling, especially paid work, may significantly affect the value of travel time (VOTT), with potential impacts on mode choice and commute patterns. In this study, we develop a model of the VOTT grounded in utility theory and activity choice analysis.

We use an efficiency factor which represents the ratio of the efficiency of working on transit to the efficiency of working at the workplace. This efficiency factor is used extensively in our models. Internet connection is expected to increase factor efficiency by providing access to real time information and enhanced communication. The model developed is used to explore the effects on VOTT of working in an enhanced networked environment while commuting. The results show that utility increases and VOTT decreases with increase in the efficiency of work while in transit, as is intuitive. An indirect utility function has been derived to represent travel on modes with internet access. The derivation permits an elegant introduction of internet access as an attribute in utility based choice models. Finally, the proposition that internet access may influence mode choice is corroborated by a survey conducted in June 2005 on Capitol Corridor trains.

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