Quality of Travel Time Use: Definition and Measurement

TitleQuality of Travel Time Use: Definition and Measurement
Publication TypeConference Paper
Year of Publication2017
AuthorsAdam Rosenfield, Jinhua Zhao
Conference NameTransportation Research Board 96th Annual Meeting
Keywordsmulti-tasking, Positive utility of travel, productivity, quality

Transportation project appraisals typically assume that travel time is of negative utility, though a growing body of literature reinforces the idea of positive utility of travel beyond simply access to a destination. While the potential to use time productively is one way of ‘reclaiming’ travel time, little research has investigated how the quality of productive travel time may vary across travelers and trip environments. This paper presents a framework on the quality of time use, grounded using empirics from a multimodal study of commuters’ time use patterns (N=2,500). We define the concept of travel time quality as distinct from oft-cited service quality, and employ a series of metrics for evaluating travelers’ time use including productive and leisurely activities. The survey found that while 87% of transit commuters perceived their time as effectively used (versus only 66% of drivers), the quality of such time, gauged as a percentage where 100% quality is equivalent to being at home or in the office, ranged from only 40% for drivers to around 50% for rail transit and pedestrian commuters. The quality of specific activities conducted on transit—most commonly listening to music, reading, and using a smartphone—was consistently rated as two-thirds as high as during non-travel time. Respondents often reported that improvements in the ability to use commute time effectively were more important than decreases in travel time or cost, reinforcing the need for transit agencies to invest in measures to improve passengers’ quality of time use.