Monday, 2 February 2009

Commuting Behaviour

A further observation from my trip to London is how there is a great difference between the social mix of commuters on public transport between Exeter and London. In Exeter, relatively few male executives use public transport. The rail lines are reasonably busy, but few males use the buses for commuting. But in London, it is quite normal and acceptable to use public transport. Of course, the infrastructure is better, but there is a difference in psychology as well. I wondered what research had appeared about the popularity of public transport commuting in cities of varying sizes.

It is relevant to O.R. because anyone working on transport models needs to remember the acceptability and feasibility of different modes of transport in different places. Behavioural psychology has its place in operational research.

Google turned up some figures for the United States. The comments are interesting. I wonder how much correlation there is between population and these percentages? And is there a similar set of data for other countries? And are there geographical effects to take into account?


Top 5 Cities for Public Transit Use

  • 54.63% New York, NY
  • 37.72% Washington, D.C.
  • 32.66% San Francisco, CA
  • 31.65% Boston, MA
  • 25.92% Philadelphia, PA

With the exception of Washington , D.C. , every city here grew up in the horse and buggy days, with streetcar rail systems. The District of Columbia is part of the 1960-70s "graduating class" of newly subway-enabled cities, along with Atlanta (MARTA) and San Francisco Bay Area cities San Francisco and Oakland (BART). BART reaches regional airports, commuter rail systems CalTrain, ACE and Amtrak, and someday it may even roll down to suburban San Jose . Atlanta is planning to extend MARTA with its back-to-the-future PeachTree Street Trolley and improved bus service.

Bottom 5 Cities for Public Transit Use

  • 1.07% Fort Worth, TX
  • 1.03% Tulsa, OK
  • 0.97% Oklahoma City, OK
  • 0.54% Virginia Beach, VA
  • 0.40% Arlington, TX

Surprise! These southern cities would benefit from re-installing light rail systems. Adding rail would provide residents relief from high gas prices -- and improve these cities' economic competitiveness. With air-conditioning thrown in, light rail would also provide relief from summer humidity.

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