Labor Day, the Recession and VMT

In the anecdotal department:

My wonderful colleague, Gen Giuliano, and I are interviewing both project managers and postdocs. We had an appointment at 9 am yesterday, and I got a text from Gen saying that she might be a little late. She lives down in Orange County, and she hadn’t started her normal commute in a timely way.

Instead of late, she arrived 15 minutes early.

Now, in reality, the public employees had for the most part given up the ghost on Friday. So she’s not dealing with their commutes.

But.

During the boom, the freeways on Friday before Labor Day would have been jammed–not with commuters, but with people going somewhere for the weekend.

Perhaps, instead, it seems, we are going on staycations.

Which, at least, saves gas.

I am spending the weekend running regressions. Woo! I hope your weekend, and your regressions, are both spiffy and awesome!

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Pat Mokhtarian on telecommunications, travel and cars

Here’s some video where Dr. Mohktarian discusses the implications of her work for future transport in cities:

Patricia Mokhtarian – We still need handshakes.

Here is a selection of her work on the subject:

Mokhtarian, P.L., 1990. A typology of relationships between telecommunications and transportation. Transportation Research 24A (3), 231–242.

Mokhtarian, P.L., 1998. A synthetic approach to estimating the impacts of telecommuting on travel. Urban Studies 35 (2), 215–241.

Mokhtarian, P.L., 2000. Telecommunications and travel. In: Transportation in the New Millennium, Transportation Research Board, National Research Council, National Academy of Science, Washington, DC. Available from:here.

Mokhtarian, P.L., 2002. Telecommunications and travel: The case for complementarity. Journal of Industrial Ecology 6 (2), 43–57. Mokhtarian, P.L., Meenakshisundaram, R., 1999. Beyond tele-substitution: disaggregate longitudinal structural equations modeling of communication impacts. Transportation Research 7C (1), 33–52.

Mokhtarian, P.L., Salomon, I., 2002. Emerging travel patterns: Do telecommunications make a difference? In: Mahmassani, H.S. (Ed.), In
Perpetual Motion: Travel Behaviour Research Opportunities and Application Challenges. Pergamon Press/Elsevier, New York, pp. 143–182.

Mokhtarian, P.L., Handy, S.L., Salomon, I., 1995. Methodological issues in the estimation of the travel, energy, and air quality impacts of telecommuting. Transportation Research 29A (4), 283–302.

Choo, S. & Mokhtarian, P. L. (2007). Telecommunications and travel demand and supply: Aggregate structural equation models for the US. Transportation Research Part A, 41(1), 4-18.

When you are a young scholar, you get to meet people whose work you’ve admired for years and years. When I first read Pat Mokhtarian’s work on telecommuting, the lights went on–a lot like when I read Randy Crane’s and Marlon Boarnet’s work. These were policy and planning people who understood and applied economic thinking to cities. Just because you provide additional, alternative options to auto travel does not mean that auto usage in the aggregate will shrivel. It probably means more travel overall because now people have more ways of getting around. Yes, some substituting goes on for some individuals, but for public policy, but what actually matters is overall VMT reduction, and nothing about additional supply of alternative modes guarantees overall VMT reductions because nothing keeps people from simply consuming more of all types of mobility options. “Ooo! A wonderful train to work! I shall take that instead of drive!” Victory, we planners exclaim! But then suddenly your stay-at-home spouse has a car available during the day and starts to use it more. Or, the same decision-maker says “Ha! I take the train the work, and since I’m not annoyed by driving for my commute, I will take the car after work to visit my friends in the far-flung suburb when I would otherwise beg off.” Those may be utility-increasing, but they are not necessarily VMT-reducing scenarios. They may be congestion-dampening, however.

Mokhtarian is part of an absolutely amazing cluster of scholars at the University of California Davis doing research on transportation: Dan Sperling, Deb Niemeier, Michael Zhang, Mark DeLucchi, and Sue Handy.