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Open Access Publications from the University of California

The Quantified Traveler: Using personal travel data to promote sustainable transport behavior


With the advent of ubiquitous mobile sensing and self-tracking groups, travel demand researchers have a unique opportunity to combine these two developments to improve the state of the art of travel diary collection. While the use of mobile phones and the inference of travel diaries from GPS and sensor data allows for lower-cost, longer surveys, we show how the self-tracking movement can be leveraged to interest people in participating over a longer period of time. By compiling personalized feedback and statistics on participants’ travel habits during the survey, we can provide the participants with direct value in exchange for their data collection effort. Moreover, the feedback can be used to provide statistics that influence people’s awareness of the footprint of their transportation choices and their attitudes, with the goal of moving them toward more sustainable transportation behavior.

We describe an experiment that we conducted with a small sample in which this approach was implemented. The participants allowed us to track their travel behavior over the course of two weeks, and they were given access to a website they were presented with their trip history, statistics and peer comparisons. By means of an attitudinal survey that we asked the participants to fill out before and after the tracking period, we determined that this led to a measurable change in people’s awareness of their transportation footprint and to a positive shift in their attitudes toward sustainable transportation.

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