‘Life-oriented approach for transportation studies’ workshop session at IATBR 2015

One of the workshop sessions at the 14th International Conference on Travel Behaviour Research, held in Windsor (UK) in July 2015, was on the topic of a ‘Life-oriented Approach for Transportation Studies’. Kiron contributed to the workshop by presenting a resource paper with Joachim Scheiner (of TU Dortmund University) which looked at the contribution of biographical research to understanding travel behaviour.


The workshop was organised by Professor Junyi Zhang (Hiroshima University) and featured nearly 50 participants.  Junyi Zhang introduced the workshop by articulating what he understood to be a life-oriented approach – this is a recognition of the interdependencies between different domains of people’s lives and their joint contribution to overall quality of life or happiness. This set the scene for Ruut Veenhoven (Director of the World Database of Happiness) to give a keynote presentation on consumption and happiness, which considered how happiness can be measured, how happiness varies between countries and the role of different societal factors, including transport, in happiness. This was followed by Veronique van Acker (University of Amsterdam) who looked at how a lifestyle-based approach could be used to study travel behaviour. She highlighted that there are diverse definitions of what constitutes lifestyles and presented results on the effect of lifestyles (measured in three different ways) on transport mode choices. These showed only limited direct effects of lifestyles on modal behaviour but the presence of indirect effects of lifestyles via residential location and car ownership.

The second half of the workshop continued with Kiron and Joachim’s presentation. The presentation considered why we would be motivated to conduct biographical research, the theoretical perspectives that can support such research, the evidence obtained to date and future possibilities.  Pat Mokhtarian (Georgia Institute of Technology), acting as discussant to the paper, welcomed the paper as a ‘fantastic resource’ which situated this strand of research within the historical evolution of transport research, and made suggestions on how the research can be applied to current hot topics of interest such as lower car use of Millennials.  The final workshop presentation was given by Kostas Goulias (University of California, Santa Barbara), who started by setting out the goal to develop a microsimulation model for Southern California that simulates the evolution of the population, including all possible individual and social triggers for changes in travel behaviour.  He illustrated the value of this with results on the differences in activity participation for different life-cycle groups.

Martin Lanzendorf (Goethe University Frankfurt), acting as rapporteur for the whole workshop, emphasised the importance for the future of this research area of developing theory, using qualitative research to obtain deeper insights, broadening scope to consider external events (e.g. transport disruptions) as well as internal (life) events and conducting intervention studies.