Toward sustainable transportation: exploring transportation decision making in teleworking households in a mid-sized Canadian city.
Subject: Transportation industry (Forecasts and trends)
Authors: Andrey, Jean C.
Burns, Kyle R.
Doherty, Sean T.
Pub Date: 12/22/2004
Publication: Name: Canadian Journal of Urban Research Publisher: Institute of Urban Studies Audience: Academic Format: Magazine/Journal Subject: Social sciences Copyright: COPYRIGHT 2004 Institute of Urban Studies ISSN: 1188-3774
Issue: Date: Winter, 2004 Source Volume: 13 Source Issue: 2
Topic: Event Code: 010 Forecasts, trends, outlooks; 290 Public affairs Computer Subject: Market trend/market analysis
Product: Product Code: 4000000 Transportation; 4700000 Transportation Services NAICS Code: 488 Support Activities for Transportation SIC Code: 4100 LOCAL AND INTERURBAN PASSENGER TRANSIT
Geographic: Geographic Scope: Canada Geographic Name: Canada; Canada Geographic Code: 1CANA Canada
Accession Number: 129248096
Full Text: Abstract

There is growing awareness that Canadian urban transportation systems are not sustainable. However, we have only a limited understanding of how travel decisions are affected by policy or other circumstantial changes that are purported to address sustainability concerns. This paper reports on an in-depth, small-sample experiment designed to explore issues that require nontraditional travel data. The locus is on household-level responses to a vehicle-reduction scenario in the context of teleworking households in a mid-sized Canadian city. The study design allows for comparisons of 'actual' versus 'gamed' activity and travel patterns. Two themes were explored: telework as an enabler of travel changes; and the persistence of and reasons for auto dependency within teleworking households. Results suggest that teleworking households have a high capacity to adapt to a vehicle-reduction scenario, while making only minor changes to activity patterns. Despite the ability to change, the six participating households displayed continued auto reliance. Barriers that prevent telework from reaching its potential as an auto-reduction strategy emerged during the game.

Keywords: Telework, transportation, activity diary, stated-adaptation game


Il y a une prise de conscience croissante que les systemes urbains canadiens de transport ne sont pas renouvelable. Cependant, nous avons une comprehension limitee de la facon dont la prise de decision de voyage est entache par la politique ou d'autres changements circonstanciels qui sont censes adresser des soucis de la viabilite ecologique. Dans cette etude, un jeu d'enoncer-adaptation a ate developpe et applique a un petit echantillon de menages canadiens qui teletravail a domicile afin d'explorer les processus du niveau du menage, la prise de decision de voyager dans une ville domine de voiture de serie intermediaire. Des menages qui ont autrefois eu deux ou trois vahicules ont eta invites reformuler leur semaine ayant seulement une automobile disponible. Le jeu fournit des points sur le teletravail comme un activateur de changements du comporternent de voyage. Les resultats suggerent que les menages qui teletravail ont une capacite elevee de s'adapter a un scenario de reduction de vehicule, tout en faisant seulement des changements mineurs aux modeles d'activite. En depit de la capacite de changer, tousles manages participants ont montre une continuita d'un besoin de voiture. Les resultats accentuent les obstacles empechant le teletravail d'atteindre sa pleine capacite comme stratagie de Gestion de la demande en transport (GDT).

Mots cles: Taletravail, transport, journal d'activite, jeu affirme-adaptation


Several reports highlight the high level of auto dependence in urban areas of Canada (Pucher 1998; The Centre for Sustainable Transportation 2002; Miller and Shalaby 2003), and much has been written about the environmental and social costs associated with such intensive auto use (e.g., Transport Canada 2001). There is thus growing interest in how both technology and policy may help to move Canadian cities in a more sustainable direction. Particular attention has been given to behavioural solutions under the umbrella of transportation demand management (TDM) (Litman 2002). TDM measures are intended to alter some aspects of transportation demand such as trip generation, travel mode, timing, route, or vehicle occupancy in order to improve the efficiency of the existing transport system and/or reduce the negative consequences of travel. In an operational sense, TDM initiatives are usually intended to reduce auto use in favour of other forms of communication or travel. Although TDM is being promoted in a number of forums (e.g. Transportation Climate Change Table 1999; Transport Canada 2002; Canadian Telework Association 2003), its formal integration into municipal plans has occurred only recently and to a limited extent (Lim 1997; Robinson 1997; Stewart and Pringle 1997).

While various studies document the impacts of individual TDMs in particular circumstances, research has also shown that commuters in different markets respond differently to the same mix of strategies (Winters 2000). Thus empirical generalizations may not necessarily lead to accurate predictions about behavioural responses to specific interventions. Rather, more attention must be given to understanding how and why responses come about, and also the potential for adaptation that exists in different circumstances. The latter is particularly important given the incremental and often unexpected ways in which changes to the transport system occur.

Teleworking (or telecommuting as it is often referred to in the United States) and other non-traditional work arrangements are considered TDM measures because of their potential to affect virtually every aspect of trip making--from trip frequency to travel mode--despite the fact that the primary, motivations for teleworking tend not to be transport-related, but rather pertain to job and/or personal factors (Doherty et al. 2000).

Telework is of particular interest to the transport community because investigations to date indicate that this work arrangement, which involves the performance of paid work at a location away from the office and is supported by telecommunications, has both broad-based public support and the potential to reduce work-related auto trips through the substitution effect. The substitution hypothesis asserts that telework substitutes for travel and results in a net reduction of auto trips/distances. While there is still debate about this hypothesis--mainly because of evident complementarity among various forms of communication (Hjortho 2002) and latent demand for travel (see for example Mokhtarian 1998: Mokhtarian and Meenakshisundaram 1999--most studies of work-related travel of regular telecommuters (i.e., those employees who spend at least one whole day per week working at home or a satellite office) support the substitution hypothesis. Much of the evidence comes from the California-based research of Patricia Mokhtarian and colleagues who conclude that: "Among micro-scale application-specific studies, evaluations of telecommuting unanimously observe net substitution" (Mokhtarian 2000 3); or more explicitly "'... many small-scale empirical studies ... have established the short-term transportation (and air quality) benefits of telecommuting at the disaggregate level: vehicle-miles traveled are substantially reduced for those who telecommute, on days that they telecommute, for as long as they telecommute" (Choo et al. 2003, 1).

However, there is uncertainty about the total, household-level travel implications of telework as well as the effect of place-based variables such as city size. These uncertainties relate in part to the paucity of data at the household level, especially for non-work travel. Also of importance is the fact that there has been little serious work on the potential interaction between telework and other background variables, including auto-reduction initiatives or outcomes (Shiftan and Suhrbier 2002 is a notable exception) and other aspects of the transportation-land use system. Thus we are not in a position to predict household-level behavioural responses to the adoption or modification of telework. Nor are we able to anticipate the ease and/or readiness with which teleworking households might adjust to auto-reduction initiatives and/or pressures. This is a crucial area of research, however, as many of the empirical studies on the travel implications of telework have focused on early adopters with long commutes in heavily congested urban areas (Mokhtarian et al. 1995; Koenig et al. 1996; Saxena and Mokhtarian 1997), and the results may not be transferable to other groups or situations. Indeed, the Canadian literature on the travel implications of telework is very limited (Snow 1998; Tayyaran 2000; Bussiere and Lewis 2002; Mortimer 2002).

This paper uses a stated-adaptation gaming approach with a sample of six Canadian teleworking households in order to explore the processes of household-level, travel decision making. This pilot study is situated in a mid-sized city with a high level of auto dependence; and the gamed situation is one where households that formerly had two or three vehicles were asked to reformulate their week having only one automobile available.

Research Goal

This paper contributes to our understanding of the processes of travel decision making in teleworking households through the use of gaming. The goal of this research is to develop and implement a game that allows us to track and understand how teleworking households would respond to a vehicle-reduction scenario. The specific empirical objectives are to explore:

1. Telework as an enabler of travel change, and

2. The persistence, of and reasons for, auto dependency within teleworking households.

The reason for focusing on auto reduction is because a growing proportion of the population is aware of the environmental consequences of excessive auto use, and there are indications that some people would be willing to change their automobile use patterns if changes were feasible (Fisher 1999; Stradling et al. 2002). Various authors have explored why the car is so highly preferred and the corollary--obstacles to reduced car use (Fisher 1999; Jensen 1999; Wright and Egan 2000). According to Fisher (1999), the barriers to mode change may be organized into three groups: practical, psychological and social. The practical barriers include such things as perceived risk, convenience, comfort, reliability, speed, ability to carry loads, cost, and access to information. With respect to the psychological barriers, the power of the automobile may be seen as a symbol of power, status, freedom, adventure, omnipotence, virility, independence, and modernity; while public transit may be associated with negative images, such as loss of control and loss of privacy. Both practical and psychological barriers vary from individual to individual. The third type of barrier is sociological--concerns over a reduction in quality of life, which is considered unacceptable in a society that associates progress with individualism, speed and consumerism.

Since telework addresses some of the barriers identified above, it is viewed with optimism by planners and environmentalists alike as a strategy for vehicle use reduction. On a practical level, when the teleworker works from home the concerns over traveling convenience, risk, comfort, etc. are not germane. On a psychological level, teleworkers can sate their appetite for power and speed with the latest computer equipment. On a social level there is widespread belief that telework has the potential to improve one's quality of life by increasing work-life balance.

Despite the many studies on the travel implications of telework, little effort has been made to understand the ease/difficulty with which a teleworking household could make substantial changes to its travel patterns. The focus instead has been on documenting the travel outcomes of teleworkers, typically without any concurrent changes in other circumstances that would encourage or require adaptation. The current study thus offers a complement to the larger-sample, before-and-after or with-and-without studies on the travel impacts of telework by focusing on survey methodology, the capacity for change, and decision-making processes.

Research Methods

Research Approach

Primary data were collected using an electronic activity diary. Various authors emphasize the advantages of activity-based data/models for the analysis of TDM strategies generally, and telework more specifically, because they provide an opportunity to better understand responses to interventions, including secondary effects and induced trips (Doherty et al. 2002; Shiftan and Suhrbier 2002). Also, in the context of making travel modifications, Rose and Ampt (2001) argue that activity diaries provide a means of making travel activity tangible for the participants. The electronic activity diary used for the study was CHASE, Computerized Household Activity Scheduling Elicitor, as described in Doherty and Miller (2000). The activity data were collected over the course of one week (seven consecutive days) because multi-day data provide opportunities to explore how travel interacts with the underlying rhythms of life (Axhausen et al. 2002).

Other key characteristics that define the study approach are as follows:

* The study considered the household as the decision-making unit, due to the fact that travel results from activity and mode choices that are often interdependent, especially within a household. Complete data were recorded for all members of the six participating households.

* The game was structured as a stated-adaptation experiment, as defined in Lee-Gosselin (1995) and discussed in Tan et al. (2001). The advantage of this approach is that, while the constraints are mostly given, the behavioural outcomes are mostly elicited. Basically participants were asked to indicate what they would do differently due to the new situation.

* The game focused on goal implementation, i.e., on how to achieve the game's objective. As noted in Garling et al. (2002), this generally leads to better performance because it directs people's attention and actions. This was crucial to completing the game in a timely fashion.

* The interviewer provided procedural assistance during the game, including bus schedules, to encourage feasible solutions to the gamed situation, as in Stradling et al. (2000).

* The study explored both the processes by which travel decisions were made as well as travel outcomes. The processes were revealed using a think-aloud protocol, where the participants verbalized their thoughts while they brainstormed, negotiated and decided on changes. The entire interview was audio-taped. The outcomes were entered into the electronic diary, providing a before-and-after record of activity and travel patterns.

The study has in common with Brewer and Hensher (2000) its focus on telework and agency interdependency, except the focus here is on household members (rather than an employer and employee), and on a hypothetical change in auto availability (rather than work changes). The gaming outcome has similarities with travel awareness campaigns, such as 'travel blending' (Rose and Ampt 2001), where one of the objectives is to explore ways in which trip elimination, mode substitution or trip chaining could be achieved through small lifestyle changes. Unlike these campaigns, however, the current 'experiment' does not provide the participant with specific suggestions or program options. Rather, the participants develop strategies themselves, i.e., they explore the possibilities within their own life.

The approach outline above is designed to illuminate how travel decisions are made, including motivations and constraints. Nevertheless, the outcomes must be interpreted as possibilities rather than confident predictions. Despite the increasing use of stated adaptation techniques in travel research (e.g., Arentze et al. 2004; Loukopoulos et al. 2004), there are still a number of methodological challenges associated with its use--including the validity of the data obtained (Polak and Jones 1997): as well as its complexity and expense (D'Arcier et al. 1998), which tend to limit sample size.

Study Area

The study was conducted in Waterloo Region, which is a mid-sized, auto-dependent community in southwestern Ontario. Canada. Waterloo Region includes three cities (Kitchener, Waterloo, Cambridge) and four rural townships, with a combined population of over 450,000. It is one of the fastest growing regions in the country: from 1997 to 2001, the Real Gross Domestic Product grew by 20 percent (CTT News 2003). Although more than 40 percent of the labour force works in manufacturing, an even larger proportion is employed in commercial/office or institutional settings, including many high-tech companies, several large financial firms, and two universities (Region of Waterloo 1998). Recent studies in the Region indicate a fairly high incidence of telework in these settings (Snow 1998; Mortimer 2002).

The built from of the tri-city area is described as dispersed, with most land being suburban in nature (Bunting and Filion 1999). Accordingly, nearly 88 percent of the one million daily trips are by private auto, 5.8 percent are walking trips, 3.4 percent are by public transit, and the remainder are by school bus, bicycle or 'other' (Region of Waterloo 1998).

Data Collection

The data were collected in February and March 2001. Participants were recruited by means of community posters, word-of-mouth, and articles in local newspapers. In order to qualify for the study, households had to Ca) be located within Waterloo Region; (b) have one member of the household telework as least eight hours per week: and (c) own or have access to at least two vehicles. Finding participants for the study was challenging, as has been found in other studies (Axhausen et al. 2002) because of both the restrictive criteria and also the time commitment required for participation (4 to 5 hours for each adult member of the household and a commitment to record data on a daily basis over a one-week period). Each participating household was given an honorarium--$50 for couples and $75 for couples with children.

The CHASE component of the field work began with a pre-interview with the adult members of a household in order to familiarize participants with the software and also to customize pull-down menus relating to household characteristics, routine activities and travel modes. This customization created deficiencies for data entry and gave a personal feel to the data entry. This interview took place as close as possible to the Sunday of the study week. At the end of the interview, a laptop computer with the CHASE program installed was left at the participating household for the duration of the study week.

On the Sunday of the study week, participants signed onto CHASE for the first time. The CHASE screen looks very much like many electronic organizers. There is a unique screen for each member of the household. During each log-on session, participants entered any activities for the following week that they had already planned. Any unplanned time slots were left blank. Then on each subsequent day of the reference week, each member of the household signed on to CHASE at least once each day to add and/or modify activities (child participants under the age of 14 worked with parents during data entry).

The gaming interview occurred at the close of the reference week, and involved the adult members of the household. Children were allowed to participate if they chose to, but children's schedules were used only insofar as they intersected with parental schedules. The first task of the interviewer was to review the household's schedule for the preceding week, which formed the 'revealed' basis for the stated adaptation interview. The second task was to have participants brainstorm a list of alternative ways of reducing auto use; this list was made available to participants during the game as cues for possible adaptations.

The next part of the interview was the game itself. First the hypothetical situation was introduced:

Participants were encouraged to use a think-aloud protocol while playing the game, so that the various options, reasons and decisions made during the game could be understood. As changes were made the interviewer probed for the feasibility of proposed solutions; for example, if the participant indicated that he/she would walk instead of drive, the interviewer asked how much earlier he/she would have to leave. In order to facilitate 'feasibility probes', several materials were prepared and brought to the interviews: all bus routes and schedules for the Region, a map of the Region with a calibrated measuring tape for distances; and regional cab fares. Once participants decided on how they would resolve conflicts, they entered the necessary changes to both activities and travel into the CHASE program. If, after 50 minutes, the household had not resolved all of the travel conflicts imposed by the scenario, participants were asked to look at the remaining days and think aloud about strategies they would use, without making changes to the CHASE program. The game was ended after one hour in order to avoid player fatigue.

The final part of the interview dealt with costs associated with car ownership and operation. More specifically, participants were asked about their yearly expenditures associated with insurance, fuel, maintenance and ownership/leasing. Then the participant indicated which of the vehicles in their household had been forfeited for the sake of the game, and the expenses were estimated for that vehicle and used to project the potential value of the savings (based on investment scenarios) at the expected date of retirement. After the investment value was calculated, participants were asked to comment on the value of their second car.


Participant Profiles

The analysis was based on six households. In each case, one of the household members was a teleworker. In three of the households, the teleworker performed most work tasks at home, except for client meetings and an occasional visit to the corporate office. In the other three cases, each teleworker had a regular office but worked at home on a part-time basis (at least eight hours per week); in one case, there was a fixed telework routine while in the other two cases telework occurred throughout the week, but on no fixed schedule. Each of the households included a married couple and, in all cases, the spouse worked either full-time or part-time. Three of the couples had children who were in either elementary or high school, while the other three couples had no children. It is worth noting that, in all six households, one or both of the adults was a university graduate, and some participants had completed graduate degrees, so this is not a typical subset of the community population; but this profile is consistent with the tendency for teleworkers to have more formal education than the general labour force, as found in other studies. In terms of age, participants varied from mid-twenties to late forties. All owned their residence--five were single-detached home and one was a high-rise condo. Finally, each of the households had either two or three motor vehicles.

In terms of observed travel, 441 trips were recorded by the adult members of participating households during the reference week; each leg of a tour was recorded as a separate trip, as is typical in origin-destination studies. In terms of trip frequencies, the average was 5 trips per adult per day, but there was considerable variation from household to household and participant to participant.

By mode, auto travel dominated. Overall, 89 percent of trips were made in vehicles that were owned/leased by the participating households; another 4 percent were made in friends' or colleagues' vehicles. No trips were made by public transit. In two out of the six households, all trips were made by private auto. In two others, the only alternative mode was walking, and it accounted for a small minority of trips. In one household, one trip was made on roller blades but all others were by auto. Finally, household two was the only one to employ more than one alternative mode--walking and bicycling in this case--and to have alternative modes account for more than 20 percent of all trips.

Telework as an Enabler of Change

Three aspects of the game provide insights into telework as an enabler of changes in travel behaviour. The first was the ease with which participants played the game. The second was the role of flexible work arrangements in resolving conflicts created by the game, as revealed through the interview transcripts. The third was the response of participants to the proposition of long-term reduced vehicle ownership.

First, the results of the game reveal the ease with which most of the households adapted to a one-vehicle situation. In only 50 minutes, five out of the six households were able to reschedule at least four days. In combination, the six households rescheduled 30 out of the possible 42 days--even given the time restriction of having only one hour for a household to discuss, decide on and record the changes. Of particular note is the fact that 16 days needed no adjustment because there were no travel conflicts. Even for the 14 days with conflicts, the number of adjustment strategies was surprisingly low (19) notwithstanding the number of steps required to implement each strategy because of secondary or knock-on effects, as documented in Doherty et al. (2002) (1). In Table 1, the nature of each adjustment strategy is briefly explained, and each resolution is given a number for future reference. These observations together suggest that teleworking households may have a high capacity to adapt to a vehicle-reduction scenario, although it should be noted that the current sample already seemed to have incorporated a lair amount of flexibility into their lifestyles. Also, three of the six households did not include children. Both these attributes would seemingly contribute to their capacity to adapt to the scenario that was presented to them.

What are the main reasons for the ease of adjustment and, in particular, what is the role of telework and other flexible work arrangements? The interview transcripts reveal a number of factors that help to explain both the lack of conflicts on certain days and the choice of conflict resolution strategies on others. In some cases, two or more factors were used together to resolve a conflict. These factors are summarized and illustrated with quotations in Tables 2, 3 and 4 under the themes: work-related factors, travel options and factors related to non-work situations.

Three work-related factors emerged from the interviews (Table 2). The first was the substitution of telephone or email communications for face-to-face meetings (and thus travel). This factor was discussed by three of the six households and was used in resolution 4. In this instance, email replaced a meeting, which allowed the teleworker to rearrange his work schedule. The second was flexible work hours. This factor was discussed by all six households, and was used by three of the households to resolve conflicts (resolutions 1, 9, 10, 11 and 19). For example, in resolution 1, the teleworker changed the timing of a client meeting in order to free up the car for the non-teleworker during the day; and the non-teleworker, who was in sales, came home early so that the teleworker could have the car for a late-afternoon meeting. The third factor was spatial flexibility, i.e., the option to choose where work tasks were performed. This was discussed by four households and contributed to the resolution of four conflicts (3, 6, 12 and 19). For example in resolution 19, the teleworker worked in the office all day, after being chauffeured there by his spouse; whereas normally the teleworker would have split his workday--part at home and part at the office. The same type of adjustment strategy was used in resolution 12. Overall, work-related factors played a role in 9 of the 19 resolutions, which underscores the importance of flexible work arrangements in creating capacity for activity and travel adjustments.

Travel options that emerged from the interviews have been organized into two groups (Table 3). The first group deals with excess auto capacity, i.e., situations where one of the household vehicles would have been idle (typically parked in the driveway at home). All households commented on this matter, and each had extended periods of time where only one vehicle was needed. This was particularly true on weekends, but also during both normal work hours and some evenings. Overall, there were five instances--all pertaining to chauffeuring spouses and children to work/school where resolutions were linked to a combination of excess auto capacity and flexible schedules (resolutions 5, 9, 10, 11 and 16).

The second group of travel factors illustrate that alternative modes of travel were judged by some participants to be feasible strategies for resolving conflicts. All households, except household 1, discussed travel options other than using the household vehicle. These options included carpooling (or getting a ride from someone), transit, cycling and walking; they were used in resolutions 7, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17 and 18.

The final group of factors involves non-work activities (Table 4). Activity cancellation was discussed by five out of the six households, but was adopted only twice to resolve conflicts (resolutions 8 and 12). A second issue pertains to spatial flexibility, i.e., the option to do leisure/shopping activities at various locations. Interestingly, this option was discussed by only two households and was not used in any resolution. Finally in terms of temporal flexibility, three of the households discussed the possibility of doing activities at different times in order to avoid travel conflicts; however, this option was used only once, in resolution 2. These observations, taken together, highlight the rigidity with which participants adhered to their original schedules, which suggest that activity compromise is not likely to be an acceptable option in many cases. This is consistent with Garling et al.'s (2002 64) assertion that "... the preference is to maintain the status quo in terms of commitments, activities, and travel arrangements."

Finally, in the closing minutes of the interview, the potential investment value of each household's second vehicle was estimated. Comments reveal that, under the right circumstances, telework could facilitate reduced auto ownership. While households 1 and 2 were not open to discussing the possibility of becoming a one-vehicle household (household 2 had just recently become a two-vehicle household after many years of managing with one car and a bicycle), each of the other four households commented on how they could manage with one car. Indeed, household 5 expressed considerable enthusiasm, as illustrated by its response to the question: "Based on the amount that your car could be worth, do you think that it would affect your vehicle ownership?"

TELEWORKER: Holy shit. It's that much. (whispered)

NON-TELEWORKER: Holy shit. Oh my god. Yes.

TELEWORKER: Oh yes, definitely. Oh my god, yeah, can I get a copy of that program. 'Cause what I'm thinking is that $5436 ... we really love to travel. We went to Africa last year, and this year we're going to Peru, and that would be our trip right there, even less than that. We would have money to pocket, and put into an RRSP, and still be going to Peru. We could take that year off at 35 instead of 45, 'cause we'd like to go abroad for a year.

This comment, and those others by other participants, indicate that cost is a significant consideration in travel decisions, which is consistent with Stradling et al.'s (2002) findings that the cost of car use was the second most prevalent reason for wanting to use a car less; traffic congestion was the most prevalent reason. However, follow-up communication with the six participating households indicates that none of the participating households have made any changes in vehicle ownership in the time following the interview; indeed household 5 now has a baby and no longer considers auto reduction an option.


The second part of the analysis explored the persistence and reasons for auto dependence. Given the widespread appreciation for the feasibility of alternative travel modes, as revealed in the brainstorming session during the first part of the game (results reported in Doherty et al. 2002), one might reasonably expect that auto use would have declined in the gamed situation. A summary of travel patterns before and after the game is provided in Table 5. As shown here, there was a movement in the expected direction, but the degree of change was minor. For teleworkers in the study, the average daily time in a vehicle dropped by 4 minutes (7 percent); for non-teleworkers, the change was a one-minute reduction (1 percent). There were fewer single-occupancy trips (6.2 vs. 4.0 trips per household per day) due to carpooling (resolutions 2, 14 and 19) and chauffeuring (resolutions 5, 9, 10, 11, 12, 16 and 17), but only a marginal increase in public transit (resolution 17) and non-motorized modes (resolutions 4, 7, 13, 15, 17 and 18). This provides strong evidence of persistent auto dependency.

A number of reasons for the near-exclusive reliance on automobile travel emerged from the interviews. These can be organized into two groups--factors that encourage auto dependence and factors that discourage the use of other modes. With respect to factors that encourage auto dependence, the strongest theme that emerges is pressures--pressure to meet work expectations, family responsibilities and general time pressure. Others themes relate to the desire for spontaneity and independence, and the advantages of the automobile, especially when coordinating schedules. All of these are reflective of a society that has accepted the mobility imperative as being key to living a productive and happy life. Also, the practical benefit of being able to carry loads was mentioned in two of the interviews.

In terms of barriers to using other modes, seven factors were identified. The first three pertain to external variables that make travel by alternative modes difficult. The first is low quality of transit service (e.g., frequency, route configuration), which is consistent with other research that documents the perceived unsatisfactory nature of transit (e.g., Stradling et al. 2002). The other two external variables are the dispersed nature of the city, and inclement weather. The next two factors deal with personal well-being: the need to be somewhat physically fit to use a bicycle; and concerns over safety/security in cycling on busy roads and in using alternative travel modes at night. The latter issue was raised despite the fact that the study area experiences a low violent crime rate (6.4 per 1000 people) (Monteiro 2002, 2003). The final two factors pertain to people's mindsets and to social norms in general. As reflected in the interview transcripts, some participants have a strong aversion to using alternative modes, especially transit, and an attachment to the 'ideal' of one car per adult.

Overall, respondents provide a myriad of reasons for the high degree of auto dependence that was observed--both in life and during the game. These comments suggest that psycho-social barriers to mode change are as important as the practical barriers. As noted by Wright and Egan (2000, 289) when discussing the results of greening experiments, "... people may be amenable to changing their travel patterns to a modest extent when they are offered practicable alternatives, but they also raise deeper questions about the motives that govern car use, and how deeply those motives are embedded in people's minds." This suggests that interventions that address practical barriers only are not likely to be successful in achieving substantial modal shifts, as least not in the short term.

Results and Discussion

This paper reported on an in-depth, small-sample experiment designed to explore issues that require non-traditional travel data. The focus was on household-level responses to a vehicle-reduction scenario in the context of teleworking households in a mid-sized Canadian city. The study design allowed for comparisons of 'actual' versus 'gamed' activity and travel patterns. Two themes were explored: telework as an enabler of travel changes; and the persistence of and reasons for auto-dependency within teleworking households.

Despite the ability to change, all six participating households displayed continued auto dependence throughout the game. A summary of travel patterns before and after the game shows that automobile travel was reduced only minimally, and travel by alternative modes increased only marginally. A number of reasons for the near-exclusive reliance on automobile travel emerged from the interviews. Some are 'pull' factors that encourage auto use, and others are 'push' factors that discourage the use of other modes. Together they illustrate a strong aversion to transit use and an attachment to the 'ideal' of one car per adult; which underscores the importance of psycho-social factors in understanding travel decision making, implementing TDMs and planning for sustainable transportation. Indeed, these results raise an important question: Will telework reduce automobile travel in situations where other motivations for reducing car use (e.g. congestion, high cost of parking) are absent? These preliminary findings suggest that smaller urban areas with limited travel options and few impediments to auto use may have very different results than the oft-quoted telework studies from California and other large urban areas. Indeed, it may be that the transportation implications of telework are highly dependent on both place-based variables, such as city size and density, as well as individual variables, such as commute length. A more complete understanding of this important issue is necessary in order to predict the environmental consequences of this work trend.

Finally, it is worth commenting on the game itself, as pilot studies of this type are essentially about developing methodology for exploring complex issues. The stated-adaptation game that was developed for this study was successful in tracking the interdependent nature of household-level travel decision-making and exploring possible changes in travel outcomes. The authors assert that a key element of the game was the requirement that respondents resolve household-level conflicts in making travel or activity changes, as this provides more realistic results than asking respondents to merely scope out alternatives (e.g. Mackett 2002). Since "... it is now commonly agreed that sustainable transportation presents a challenge to the traditional transportation planning methodology, which is heavily dependent on the standard four-stage model ..." (Loo 2002 221), this type of methodological development is important for anticipating the effects of policy interventions in different contexts. Future work should focus on how adaptation strategies vary across different subsets of teleworkers, stratified by personal and place-based characteristics.


Although the sample size is too small to generalize about travel changes, three aspects of the game provide insights into telework as an enabler of change in travel behaviour. More specifically, the results of the game reveal the ease with which most of the households adapted to a one-vehicle situation; the importance of both flexible work and excess auto capacity (both of which are linked to telework) in resolving travel conflicts, and the feasibility of reduced auto ownership in the long term. Together these suggest that teleworking households might have a high capacity to adapt to a vehicle-reduction scenario, while making only minor changes to activity patterns.


The authors would like to acknowledge the financial support of the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada and the University of Waterloo. The authors are also grateful to the three anonymous reviewers for their critical comments.


(1) Households 1,2, 3, 5, 6 and 7 in Doherty et al. (2002) correspond to households 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6 in this study.


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Jean C. Andrey

Department of Geography

University of Waterloo

Kyle R. Burns

Local Economic Development Program

University of Waterloo

Sean T. Doherty

Department of Geography and Environmental Studies

Wilfrid Laurier University
You have had one of your vehicles stolen (you
   may choose which one), and for reasons of your
   own, you have decided not to replace it, but to
   meet your travel needs based on having only
   one vehicle. You may not rent or borrow another
   vehicle, but you may accept rides and you may
   use other modes. Based on this scenario, what
   is the first thing you would most likely change,
   looking back upon your week?

Table 1 Resolutions to Conflicts Associated
with Vehicle-Reduction Scenario

Household   Day for    Resolution      Description (T = teleworker;
           which Came                      N = non-teleworker)
           was Played

             Monday         1       * T changes timing of meeting with
                                      client in order to free up car
                                      for N during the day. N, who is
                                      in sales, comes home early that
                                      afternoon so that T can have car
                                      for meeting.
    1                       2       * Both T and N change the timing
                                      of their independent trips to an
                                      exercise facility so that they
                                      can go together.
            Tuesday         3       * N decides to drop off a courier
                                      package early in the morning and
                                      then cancel some impromptu sales
                                      visits in order to free up the
                                      car for T, who has to go out for
             Monday    No conflict
            Tuesday         4       * T replaces car trip to work with
                                      bicycle trip, and meeting with
                                      email, in order to free up car
                                      for spouse.
                            5       * Family joined together for
                                      an activity and then the N
                                      chauffeurs the T to and from
                                      a meeting in between kids'
    2      Wednesday   No conflict
            Thursday        6       * T works at home in morning,
                                      while N runs errands. Then T
                                      goes into work with car while
                                      N stays home.
                            7       * Child walks home from an
                                      activity instead of being
                                      picked up.
                            8       * A trip to the video store is
             Friday    No conflict
             Monday         9       * T drops off N and child at work/
                                      school before driving to work.
    3       Tuesday        10       * Same as Monday.
           Wednesday       11       * Same as Monday.
            Thursday       12       * N cancels leisure activity in
                                      order to chauffeur T and child
                                      to work/school; T cancels home-
                                      based work in afternoon because
                                      of lack of car.
             Monday    No conflict
            Tuesday        13       * T bikes to meeting so that N can
                                      have car.
           Wednesday       14       * N carpools to work so that T can
                                      have car for meeting.
    4       Thursday       15       * T bikes to meeting and store so
                                      that N can have car.
             Friday    No conflict
            Saturday   No conflict
             Sunday    No conflict
             Monday    No conflict
            Tuesday    No conflict
           Wednesday   No conflict
    5       Thursday       16       * T chauffeurs N to work so he can
                                      have car for squash game; N gets
                                      ride home with co-worker.
             Friday    No conflict
            Saturday   No conflict
             Sunday    No conflict
             Monday    No conflict
            Tuesday    No conflict
           Wednesday       17       * T chauffeurs N and kids to work/
                                      school; spouse walks to lunch-
                                      time activity and takes bus home.
    6                      18       * In the evening, T does errands
                                      in neighborhood on foot,
                                      allowing N to chauffeur kids
                                      to activities.
            Thursday       19       * N chauffeurs T to work and kids
                                      to and from school; T works in
                                      office all day, works late, eats
                                      in restaurant near office; and
                                      carpools home.
             Friday    No conflict

Table 2 Work-Related Factors that Facilitated Conflict Resolution

     Factor        Discussed    Used in     Illustrative Quotations
                               Resolution  (T = teleworker; N = non-
                                            teleworker; HH = household)

  Telephone or     HH 1, 2, 3      4       "If I can do a credit
Email Substitutes                          approval over the phone,
   for Travel                              then I will." [T] "For
                                           me it's the same;
                                           it's all customer-oriented."
                                           [N] [HH1]

                                           "Some things I usually
                                           do in person I could do
                                           electronically. It's not
                                           as personal but if that's
                                           the only way to get it
                                           done ..." [T] [HH2]

  Flexible Work      All HH    1, 9, 10,   "Could you have done that
      Hours                      11, 19    Monday night or afternoon
                                           when I got home?" [N] "I
                                           could've called Sunday night
                                           and rearranged that. So if
                                           you could have been home by
                                           ..." [T] "I could have
                                           easily been home by one."
                                           [N] [HH1]

                                           "What we have to do first
                                           is decide what I have to do
                                           during the day for my car."
                                           [N] "Yep, let's look at you
                                           first 'cause my job's a lot
                                           more flexible." [T] "In
                                           general, T would try to
                                           reschedule all her
                                           appointments at night while
                                           I'm away during the day."
                                           [N] [HH1]

                                           "I have extremely flexible
                                           hours, and no routine." [N]

  Flexible Work     HH l, 2,   3, 6, 12,   "Cause I didn't have
    Location          3, 6         19      anything going on in the
                                           morning, so
                                           you could've gone to
                                           Kitchener." [T] "Nope. I
                                           wouldn't have. Rather than
                                           rush home and get you the
                                           car, I'd rather just work
                                           at home."
                                           [N] [HH1]

                                           "Ok, so that would have
                                           meant that I couldn't
                                           have had coffee that
                                           day ... or you
                                           could have worked at
                                           [N] [HH2]

                                           "You'd have to do that at
                                           the office." [N] [HH6]

Table 3 Travel Options that Facilitated Conflict Resolution

     Factor        Discussed    Used in     Illustrative Quotations
                               Resolution   (T = teleworker; N = non-
                                            teleworker; HH = household)

   Excess Auto       All HH     5, 9, 10   "When I get home on Friday,
    Capacity                     11, 16    my car is parked till Sunday
                                           or Monday." [N] [HH1]

                                           "Mondays and Tuesdays aren't
                                           so bad ... because neither
                                           of us work Monday, and you
                                           don't work on Tuesday ..."
                                           [T] [HH6]

                                           "Monday I didn't get out of
                                           the house until 4:45." [T]
                                           "That was the first time you
                                           needed it? ... I probably
                                           could've been back from
                                           school by that time. Yes,
                                           I could've
                                           been home easily at that
                                           stage." [N] [HH4]

                                           "Then we went out for dinner
                                           at night together, so
                                           there's no time when two
                                           cars need to
                                           be used at the same time."
                                           [N] "I guess we could've
                                           easily handled having one
                                           car this week. That was
                                           pretty easy.
                                           Wow. The thing is--it is
                                           easy this week, but like I
                                           said, this week was a little
                                           atypical because I didn't go
                                           into the office at all. But
                                           you know what? If I only
                                           went into the office one
                                           day, like tomorrow,
                                           then you could
                                           carpool one day." [T] [HH5]

                                           "And the way I do it with
                                           regards to getting to work
                                           is I commute with a
                                           girlfriend of
                                           mine who lives in the
                                           area ... she would drive
                                           one month and
                                           I would drive one month."
                                           [N] But [your friend] could
                                           probably carpool for the
                                           whole year. Let's say we
                                           only had one car. You
                                           could probably
                                           just give her money." [T]
                                           Exactly, because when she
                                           didn't have a car that's
                                           what she did with me."
                                           [N] [HH6]

Table 4 Factors Related to Non-Work Activities

     Factor        Discussed    Used in     Illustrative Quotations
                               Resolution   (T = teleworker; N = non-
                                            teleworker; HH = household)

 Cancel Non-Work     All HH     HH 8, 12   "We'll leave the Y for now
   Activities       except 5               until we work on your day
                                           and see if we can fit it
                                           in." [T] [HH1]

                                           "Okay, so that would have
                                           meant that I couldn't have
                                           had coffee that day." [N]

                                           "... and you were
                                           fishing would
                                           have had to give
                                           that up with one car."
                                           [N] [HH3]

                                           "Tuesday coffee." [T] "Is
                                           this something you would
                                           have really done?" [N] [HH4]

                                           "I can't help our daughter
                                           with her homework."
                                           [T] [HH6]

     Spatial        HH 3, 4                "Saturday was interesting
   Flexibility                             because we did a whole lot
                                           of things separately.
                                           Because I went back to work,
                                           I visited a friend and I had
                                           a medical appointment. So I
                                           went my way ... you played
                                           with our son, and you went
                                           up and picked up
                                           some friends ... and took
                                           them to Kidsworld." [T]
                                           "But that was more of a
                                           lack of creative
                                           thinking. But if we had
                                           one vehicle and T had
                                           needed to do
                                           those errands, then
                                           we would have made do
                                           right here."
                                           [N] [HH3]

    Temporal        HH 1,2,3       2       "I would challenge the
  Flexibility:                             need for certain trips
    Non-Work                               and activities. They can
   Activities                              be postponed until they
                                           correspond with more
                                           necessary ..." [N] [HH3]

                                           "... if I had wanted to go
                                           to do an errand, I'll
                                           often wait for T, if T
                                           needed the car,
                                           and do it when he got home."
                                           [N] [HH2]

Table 5 Travel Patterns Before and After Game

                    Average Daily Travel Time in a Vehicle

                    Teleworker               Non-teleworker

Household 1   82.5 [right arrow] 72.5   107.5 [right arrow] 92.5
Household 2   43.8 [right arrow] 33.8    47.5 [right arrow] 45.0
Household 3   41.3 [right arrow] 35.0    88.8 [right arrow] 98.5
Household 4   76.4 [right arrow] 72.9    96.4 [right arrow] 97.1
Household 5   37.9 [right arrow] 40.0    33.6 [right arrow] 33.6

Household 6   76.0 [right arrow] 78.0    92.8 [right arrow] 93.8
Average       59.6 [right arrow] 55.4    77.8 [right arrow] 76.8

                            Household-Level Trip Counts

               Average Daily # Trips    Average Daily # Single-
                                             Occupant Trips

Household 1   13.0 [right arrow] 11.5    13.5 [right arrow] 5.0
Household 2   13.4 [right arrow] 13.5     4.8 [right arrow] 3.3
Household 3   10.4 [right arrow] 10.5     4.0 [right arrow] 3.0
Household 4    7.9 [right arrow] 7.7      2.9 [right arrow] 2.0
Household 5    7.1 [right arrow] 7.3      3.7 [right arrow] 3.5
Household 6   11.0 [right arrow] 11.4     8.4 [right arrow] 7.6
Average       10.5 [right arrow] 10.3     6.2 [right arrow] 4.0
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