The Positive Utilities of Performing Mobilities (A Study on the Travel Time Use of Dutch Travellers in the Information Age)
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Summary The importance of mobility and technology in the current Information Age makes it interesting to investigate the interconnections between these aspects. The New Mobilities Paradigm underlines the interconnections between technology-supported virtual mobilities and corporeal mobilities, which encompasses the two important features of our current post-modern society; mobility and ICT. This vision is used to investigate the travel time use of Dutch travellers, the factors that can influence travel time use, the role of ICT in travel time use, the influence of travel time use on journey experience and the differences in these aspects between transport modes. Many policy makers in the field of transportation see travel time as a disutility and a cost to someone’s productive time, which means that they aim to minimise travel time. But it is argued in the present study that travel time can be used to perform activities, which can give travel time a positive utility. The developments of mobile ICT have the potential to increase the productivity of travellers, which can enhance the positive utilities of travel time. Previous studies have already looked into travel time use and the positive utilities of travel time. Several studies in the UK and a study in Japan have already investigated travel time use and the role of ICT, but the Dutch context was not studied in this respect before. The travel time uses in cars and trains were investigated in previous studies, but more research was needed to gain more insights into travel time use and some associated aspects. Busses and metros were not investigated before, and the differences between transport modes in travel time use and the other investigated aspects could be important to study as well. This is why travel time use, the factors that can influence travel time use, the role of ICT, the influence of travel time use on journey experience and the differences in these aspects between transport modes are investigated among Dutch car, train, bus and metro travellers in the Rotterdam metropolitan area. Questionnaires and observations were used to collect empirical data, as the combination of asking questions and observing behaviour can give more complete information and can prevent problems with biased data outcomes. The results showed that travellers engaged in all sorts of activities while travelling. Many travellers were looking out of the window, using mobile phones, relaxing, talking to fellow travellers or listening to music during their journeys. Most respondents saw their travel time use as time-out or relaxation, and many of the activities they performed were more for personal benefit than for productivity. More than three quarters of the respondents did not see their travel time as wasted or lost time, but indicated it as either productive or relaxing, which means that most travellers in the present study did seem to get some positive utilities from their travel time. It was also found that available seating (in public transport), carrying equipment and using well-designed and high-quality vehicles, can positively influence travel time use. But high degrees of crowding (in public transport) and noise were found to have negative influences on travel time use. ICT was found to positively influence travel time productivity and journey experience, which indicates a positive role of ICT in travel time use. Travel time use itself also had a positive influence on the perceived journey experiences of travellers, which again shows that most travellers got some sort of positive utility from their travel time by performing activities on the move. The data also showed clear differences between transport modes, as most travel time uses showed higher frequencies in public transport modes when compared to cars. Especially train users showed high frequencies in many travel time activities, and the role of ICT also seemed to be the most significant and positive in the travel time use on trains. The respondents perceived the train to be the best transport mode option in terms of travel time use, while the metro was perceived quite negatively. The present study resulted in valuable new insights into travel time use in the Dutch context, but also found that travel time is mainly used for relaxing activities. This was also concluded in previous studies on travel time use, but it can be argued that these non-productive activities also have important benefits for travellers. The results also showed that people perceive their travel time quite positively and that they often use their time invested in travelling in a useful way, which can lead to a more positive travel experience. And the fast developments of mobile ICT can help to increase productivity and travel time use. Policy makers should stop treating travel time as a disutility and should promote travel time use instead, as the potentials and positive utilities of travel time use are clearly shown in the present study.