Interrelations between travel mode choice and trip distance: trends in Germany 1976-2002

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date


Subject Area

planning - surveys, ridership - mode choice


Trip length, Trend (Statistics), Travel surveys, Travel distance, Small towns, Mode choice, Modal shift, Modal choice, Longitudinal studies, Germany, Cities, Choice of transportation


In recent decades, trends in travel behavior have been characterized by increasing trip distances and a modal shift towards the private car. This paper reports findings from longitudinal analyses of the German nation-wide travel survey for the period 1976-2002. It focuses on travel mode choice, subdivided by distance categories, and also takes car availability and city size into account. In addition, trends in car availability itself are examined by city size categories. The results indicate that even within the same distance categories car use has considerably increased. In some cases bicycle use has increased as well. Gains in the use of the private car are mainly at the expense of trips on foot and by public transport. Accordingly, the shift in modal split towards the car is not (only) caused by increasing trip distances but took place even within distance classes. Once car availability is taken into account, the modal shifts appear to be considerably weaker. This suggests that once car availability is held constant the decision rationales of mode choice for a certain trip distance have remained relatively stable. The increase in motorization over the study period was considerably weaker in large cities than in small towns, although the cities started from a lower level in the 1970s. Thus, the motorization divide between cities on the one hand, and suburban and rural areas on the other hand has become ever wider. For travel mode choice, the picture is similar. What is more, the results suggest that even car owners are more inclined to walk a given distance in the cities than in small towns, even more so if they live in a central urban area. The built environment, thus, appears to have a strong impact on whether an available car is used or not.


Journal of Transport Geography home Page: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/journal/09666923