About Life Transitions and Travel Behaviour

Do people change their travel routines when they move home, change jobs, get married, have children…?

Emerging research has established that significant changes in travel behaviour are often associated with life transitions. Life transitions involve a change in personal circumstances, typically marked by observable life events such as joining the labour force, moving home, having children or retiring. This research project explored the relationship between such life events (like moving home) and travel behaviour changes (like the number of cars owned or mode choice for getting to work).


The project used data from the UK Household Longitudinal Study and the British Household Panel Survey (BHPS). Together, these surveys have tracked the lives of a nationally (UK) representative sample of individuals over multiple years. They have recorded information concerning household car ownership and commuting behaviour, as well as a variety of other information about people’s lives such as their relationships, employment, attitudes and health.  The survey data offers a unique opportunity to examine how individuals make changes to their travel behaviours over time in relation to life events.

The project set out to meet the following objectives:

  1. To identify the extent to which life transitions are associated with major turning points in travel behaviour related to car ownership and commuting;
  2. To understand in what circumstances life transitions are likely to lead to turning points in car ownership and commuting behaviour;
  3. To use the understanding gained above to identify how policy interventions can achieve desirable outcomes for transport; and
  4. To build capacity in the transport field to use large-scale, longitudinal data sets to inform policy analysis.

Further information on our approach to analysing the survey data is available in the project briefing sheet.

The findings are summarised on the outputs page.