Unpacking the influence of social norms and past experience on commute mode choice

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Matt Biggar


Transportation mode choice, Social norms, Close social ties, Situational relevance, Past transportation experience, Social intervention


Researchers have identified the need for further study of subjective and social influences on personal transportation choices. Set in a workplace-based commute alternative program, this study examines the impact of transportation-related social context and past transportation experience on commute mode choice. Through a purposive, paired sample design with ten individuals, this qualitative study examines influences on commute behavior using narrative interviews and a commute documentation activity. The five pairs of individuals were matched across variables in such a way as to hold constant workplace, basic demographics, and residential location. Social norms found to influence individual use of alternative commute modes involved the commute behavior and attitudes of close social ties and the situational relevance of social ties’ commute behavior. These behavior-related social norms, coupled with past transportation experience and mediated by perceptions and feelings, were found to be helpful in explaining commute mode choice. Implications for social interventions that encourage use of alternative transportation modes are discussed.

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