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Residential relocation and travel behaviour change

Stanbridge, Karen


Karen Stanbridge


With greater policy emphasis now given to travel demand management, the need for research into understanding travel behaviour, and identifying opportunities to effect travel behaviour change has grown significantly. A key impediment to behaviour change can be the lack of conscious consideration by an individual of the travel choices they make, i. e. habit. Breaking or weakening habits by bringing consideration of travel options back into an individual's
consciousness is therefore an important precursor to behaviour change, although this can be difficult to achieve through many behaviour change interventions.

A rise in the level of consciousness of behaviour can occur when an individual faces a key life event, or a change of circumstances, such as would occur with moving home. A home move is a key event of particular interest for potentially weakened travel habits, as it can drastically change the travel situation of the household. The home location to a large extent determines journey time to work, amenities, schools and the public transport options available to the
household. Therefore the decision of where to live will often have long term consequences for travel behaviour, in addition to the move having the potential to affect travel habits in the short-term. It might therefore be possible for travel behaviour change interventions to `take advantage' of weakened habits associated with a home move in order to promote more desired methods of travel.

This suggestion had however not been empirically examined prior to the start of this research. Research was therefore deemed necessary to better understand the implications of residential relocation for travel and travel habits. This was in order that should the above suggestion prove accurate, any interventions to be implemented would have a more thorough grounding in knowledge and understanding of the situation, and thus a better chance of success. This
thesis therefore sets out to examine the travel implications of residential relocation.

An initial qualitative phase of exploratory in-depth interviews conducted with recent movers in the city of Bristol, England, highlights the importance of how travel is thought about during the search and selection processes, to how the move affects household travel. Three types of
post-move changes to travel behaviour are identified; deliberate, anticipated and unexpected.

This leads to the development of the `Residential Relocation Timeline' (RRT), a conceptual framework of eight stages during the moving process at which consideration of travel issues may occur.

The second part of the research (a postal survey) further examines and develops this framework. Given the diverse nature of relocation experiences at the individual level, five different `travel-consideration-types' are identified. These provide a more generic interpretation of differences in the timing of travel considerations undertaken during the
process of a move.

It is revealed that 12% of the moving households in the study never considered travel during the course of their move (86% did consider travel at some point), and overall 57% of respondents experienced a change to the pre-move main mode used for at least one regular household journey. 50.6% of respondents considered travel after the move had taken place (with 7.6% considering travel only at this time), and therefore are likely to have experienced
`unexpected' or `unplanned' changes to their household travel. 49% of the sample consider travel prior to the selection of the property, and therefore are likely to have `anticipated' the travel outcomes. 75.5% do report considering travel issues such as proximity to work and
shops during the search for their new home (whether this consideration is planning for change, or planning for as little change as possible). Finally, for 34.2% of the survey respondents travel issues were involved in prompting the move, and therefore some change to travel is likely to have been sought.

It is concluded that the study does find evidence for travel behaviour change and travel habit weakening associated with a home move, and that therefore residential relocation appears to be an ideal time to target travel behaviour change interventions. It is suggested however that
interventions are most likely to be effective if targeted to households in the process of determining their search criteria, or at least prior to final selection of the property. Many households appear to wish to reduce their travel upon moving, but are thwarted by lack of availability of suitable property and the complicated decisions involved in property search and selection. Interventions at such times if carefully designed therefore have the potential to be both effective and appreciated by recipients -a situation that is highly desirable for behaviour change campaigns.


Stanbridge, K. (2007). Residential relocation and travel behaviour change. (Thesis). University of the West of England

Thesis Type Thesis
Publication Date Oct 1, 2007
Keywords residential relocation, travel, behaviour change

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