Getting married, moving house or retiring? How major life events impact on sustainable transport choices

Issue date: 21 February 2013

Just married

Transport researchers at UWE Bristol have just been awarded a major ESRC grant aimed at finding the links between the most important life changes we experience and our travel choices.

The £200,000 award brings together transport experts from UWE Bristol with researchers at the University of Essex who run the large scale UK Household Longitudinal Survey, Understanding Society.

Data from this survey will be used to identify the relationship between life changing events and changes in travel behaviour, including increases and decreases in the number of cars we own and the way we get to work.

The highly regarded Understanding Society survey gathers data from interviews with 100,000 individuals from 40,000 households each year. Together with its predecessor, the British Household Panel Survey, the survey tracks the lives of respondents over a period of years, recording events such as forming, (and ending) relationships, birth of children, moving home, entering or leaving the workforce, changing job location, onset of health conditions and ownership of cars.

Principal investigator Dr Kiron Chatterjee from UWE's Centre for Transport & Society said, “Our aim is to identify the relative importance of different types of life events, in a range of different individual, social and built environment contexts. For example, we will be able to establish whether people who have not changed their level of car ownership for many years are more or less likely to do so when a major life event occurs.

“Understanding which circumstances lead individuals to change their travel choices has major implications for public policy.

“The 18 month project aims to identify windows of opportunity when people are open to changes in their behaviour. The Department for Transport is strongly integral to the project and possible outcomes from the innovative use of this database could include initiatives to encourage change for individuals to more sustainable travel, such as cycling, walking and public transport, after life changes.”

Professor Heather Laurie, director of the Institute for Social and Economic Research at the University of Essex said, “This project has the potential to improve significantly the evidence concerning the key drivers of travel behaviour and the process of behavioural change, as well as having a long-lasting impact on national transport policy and planning practice.”

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