User Choice in Transport: An Interview with Floridea Di Ciommo

What factors influence user choice when it comes to different modalities? How can policymakers and urban planners consider user needs and preferences in their design of urban transport systems?

What factors influence user choice when it comes to different modalities? How can policymakers and urban planners consider user needs and preferences in their design of urban transport systems? MoTiV catches up with Floridea Di Ciommo, Co-director of the cooperative cambiaMO and member of the Advisory Board for MoTiV, to obtain her perspective on user mobility choices, and the policies that affect them.

What are some of the issues that affect user mobility choices in inefficiently planed transport systems?

 Most of the time, people don’t choose their mode of transport. Instead, they are required to use a specific mode of transport. When transport systems, including modes such as walking, cycling, bus, and metro, are not in line with user needs, difficulties arise in their daily mobility use. This is the case especially for chain mobility trips (i.e. the mobility that we indicate as the mobility of caring, such as mobility related to the accompaniment of dependent persons, the purchase of groceries, or trips to the doctor). The coverage of these needs depends on the capacity of transport planners to analyse daily mobility data and really respond to travel demand. Data analysis shows that work trips represent only 21% of the full range of transport, while purposes related to chain mobility account for more than 41%.[1] Yet, if transport planners continue to fixate on organizing transport systems for work mobility, system defects will continue to affect citizen mobility.

What does a needs-based approach to transport entail?

People’s travel to participate in activities, as well as travel itself, is driven by a set of subjective needs, such as: existence needs (i.e. exercise, health, safety and security, multi-tasking during travel, travel independence), relatedness (i.e. togetherness, care-giving, norms and social climate), and personal growth (i.e. self-esteem, competitiveness, self-identity, fitness).[2] We posit that transport planners will be able to plan better transport systems if they understand the link between activities and the underlying personal needs. Needs can best be satisfied when they are first clearly identified at the individual level.

What tools can policymakers use to effectively develop comprehensive transport policies?

Upon realising that mobility for caring is the most important purpose of transport, and that the transport modes most used for that are non-motorized (i.e. walking), the next step is to design a care trip-oriented transport system.

In this context, there are two different aspects to be considered in order to effectively develop comprehensive transport policies:

  1. Public transport, as well as private transportation systems, were mainly designed for “work purpose” mobility;
  2. Through the observation of daily mobility at the individual user level, one can conclude that only a portion of daily travel is “work purpose” oriented, while the rest have other purposes (mainly care-giving purposes). Therefore, the design of a transport system with a focus on caring mobility perspectives will be better oriented towards improving mobility at the local scale, rather than optimizing road infrastructures and technological private cars.

What is the main challenge of the needs-satisfaction approach?

The major challenge of the needs-satisfaction approach is how to identify personal mobility needs. While substantial progress has been made in the literature on how to assess basic needs, this remains a major issue in practice and is even more complicated when such basic needs have to be translated to transport needs. It is therefore necessary to define an ad hoc methodology for identifying needs in terms of mobility.

In my most recent publication, A behavioural framework for needs-based transport assessment[3], my colleagues and I propose a methodology that makes use of survey information on people’s satisfaction or dissatisfaction with their current travel resources and their actual travel experiences as a basis for identifying the level of need satisfaction. We assume that transport needs are poorly fulfilled when people are dissatisfied with their travel outcomes. We therefore propose to expand traditional travel surveys with questions about people’s satisfaction with their travel experience.

At CAMBIAMO, we have adopted this approach as part of the Barcelona Metropolitan Area Travel Survey analysis. The key advantage of this needs-satisfaction approach compared with equity assessments using place-based measures of accessibility is that different population groups are no longer considered as passive subjects waiting for a fair distribution of transport resources to be delivered, but are able to directly express their unmet travel needs (for which they require improved transport policies and additional resources) through the survey instrument.

How does incomplete or insufficient data on user needs and behaviours negatively affect equity in transport system planning?

Relevant studies have shown that an adequate transport system is essential to the fulfilment of key human needs, including safety and security in health, employment and social stability.[4] Especially low-income households may experience some difficulties in travel, in part because excessive transport costs may compromise other household expenditures (health, education, quality of food). Failing to meet key human needs may result in physical, social, geographical and economic social exclusion.



About Floridea Di Ciommo: She is co-director of research Institute cambiaMO|chainging Mobility. She has an extensive experience on transport demand modeling and Transport Equity Assessment. She coordinated the EU Cost Action Transport Equity Analysis (TEA, TU 1209). She has extensively worked on the nexus between travel behavior, social variables, and equity issues. She is a member of Transportation Research Board (TRB) Committees on Travel Behavior and Value and Women’s Issues in Transportation. She also regularly teaches at universities in Spain and in France and supervises students for their PhD or masters MSc. Currently, she is cochairing the WP on Mobility for the Urban Innovative Action Project Mares Madrid and chairing WG1 of EU COST Action Wider Impacts and Scenario Evaluation of Autonomous and Connected Transport (WISEACT, CA16222). She is cooperating with international and national institutions and associations such as the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), the Spanish Transport Department (DGT) for gender and transport aspects, and the Climate Change Foundation for modeling health impacts of transport.


[2] Response extracted from the following text: A behavioural framework for needs-based transport assessment, Floridea Di Ciommo, Francesc Magrinya, Gianni Rondinella, Yoram Shiftan in Measuring Transport Equity, Editors: Karen Lucas Karel Martens Floridea Di Ciommo Ariane Dupont-Kieffer, Paperback ISBN: 9780128148181, eBook ISBN: 9780128148198, Imprint: Elsevier 



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