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Understanding the demand for travel: It's not purely "derived"


We contest the derived demand paradigm for travel as a behavioral absolute. To the contrary, we suggest that travel has an intrinsic positive utility and is valued for its own sake, not just as a means of reaching a destination. We argue that the same positive characteristics that lead people to engage in travel as a recreational activity in itself, are likely to motivate them to engage in apparently excess travel in the context of their mandatory and maintenance activities as well. This paper explores the conceptual basis of a positive utility for travel, and presents some results from an ongoing empirical study of attitudes toward travel. In modeling distance traveled (in each of 11 categories), we found that subjective variables such as Travel Liking, the adventure-seeker Personality trait, the travel stress Attitudinal factor, and the Excess Travel indicator added considerable explanatory power to the Demographic variables traditionally used in such models. It appears that, far from being completely determined by demographically-based needs, the amount of travel demanded is heavily influenced by one’s attitudes toward travel. This is not only true for discretionary (entertainment) purposes as would be expected, but for more “mandatory” purposes such as work/school-related activities as well. We are convinced that the demand for travel arises from a fundamental human need for mobility and other subjective characteristics, as well as from the external causes typically measured. To more accurately forecast travel demand and policy response, the role of those subjective characteristics needs to be understood much better than we do at present.

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