How do activities conducted while commuting influence mode choice? Using revealed preference models to inform public transportation advantage and autonomous vehicle scenarios

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date


Subject Area

place - north america, ridership - attitudes, ridership - behaviour, ridership - commuting, ridership - perceptions, ridership - mode choice, mode - car, mode - rail, economics - value of time


Travel behavior, Multitasking, Activities while traveling, Autonomous vehicles, Mode choice, Attitudes, Value of travel time


From early studies of time allocation onward, it has been acknowledged that the “productive” nature of travel could affect its utility. Currently, at the margin an individual may choose transit over a shorter automobile trip, if thereby she is able to use the travel time more productively. On the other hand, recent advancements toward partly/fully automated vehicles are poised to revolutionize the perception and utilization of travel time in cars, and are further blurring the role of travel as a crisp transition between location-based activities. To quantify these effects, we created and administered a survey to measure travel multitasking attitudes and behaviors, together with general attitudes, mode-specific perceptions, and standard socioeconomic traits (N = 2229 Northern California commuters). In this paper, we present a revealed preference mode choice model that accounts for the impact of multitasking attitudes and behavior on the utility of various alternatives. We find that the propensity to engage in productive activities on the commute, operationalized as using a laptop/tablet, significantly influences utility and accounts for a small but non-trivial portion of the current mode shares. For example, the model estimates that commuter rail, transit, and car/vanpool shares would respectively be 0.11, 0.23, and 1.18 percentage points lower, and the drive-alone share 1.49 percentage points higher, if the option to use a laptop or tablet while commuting were not available. Conversely, in a hypothetical autonomous vehicles scenario, where the car would allow a high level of engagement in productive activities, the drive-alone share would increase by 1.48 percentage points. The results empirically demonstrate the potential of a multitasking propensity to reduce the disutility of travel time. Further, the methodology can be generalized to account for other properties of autonomous vehicles, among other applications.


Permission to publish the abstract has been given by Elsevier, copyright remains with them.


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