Examining the Process of Modal Choice for Everyday Travel Among Older People

Jean Ryan, International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, January 2020
Modal choice is a prominent concept within transport studies. However, the term is often used quite loosely, with little known about the factors lying behind the choice, the alternatives available to a person, and whether the person had a ‘choice’ to begin with. This study draws on a travel survey among older people living in Sweden’s large metropolitan regions. The questions posed as part of this survey facilitate a greater insight into the processes at play behind modal choice. An analysis of the differences between: (1) the range of modal options available to respondents and (2) the modes selected from this range (modal choice) is presented. An analysis of the respondents’ reasoning for choosing the modes they did and not the others they could have chosen is also presented. It was found that more than a quarter of respondents have the option to use and actually use all modes for everyday travel. The car is more inclined to be selected among those who have a range of different modal options. Suitability and comfort are the two main reasons given for modal choice. More positive reasons are given for actively selecting walking and cycling, whereas the motives behind the selection of the car instead tend to be framed as reasons for not selecting other modes. Adaptive preference and adjustment effects are also apparent in the selection processes. This study gives us a deeper understanding of the intricate mechanisms and reasoning at play behind the process of modal choice among this group. In this way, we have a better basis for shaping and implementing measures to promote and encourage sustainable mobility, in such a way that the well-being of older people is also supported.
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