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Edited by Joachim Scheiner and Henrike Rau

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Henrike Rau and Joachim Scheiner

The field of mobility biographies research has grown substantially over the past few years. This book assembles an edited volume of work done by leading scholars in the field. It presents critical reflections of previous work that aim to contribute to the conceptual and methodological advancement of the field based on a wide variety of conceptual and methodological approaches. While much research in the field has hitherto relied on statistical analyses of travel behaviour data, this book presents a more balanced mix of quantitative, qualitative and mixed-methods work. Contributing authors represent a variety of backgrounds, including disciplines such as geography, sociology, psychology, transport planning and civil engineering. The book prioritises detailed theoretical and methodological reflections, thus departing from much previous mobility biographies research that has been predominantly empirical and limited in its theoretical and conceptual outlook.

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Kiron Chatterjee and Ben Clark

There is still much to learn about why people make major changes to their personal mobility. It is challenging to identify the points in time when people make major changes in their personal mobility and the circumstances in which such changes take place and the motivations for change. Some studies have used panel data from large-scale surveys while others have conducted biographical interviews with small numbers of participants. These two approaches to research stem from very different epistemological and methodological perspectives, yet provide potentially complementary insights. This chapter provides a critical examination of the contributions from the two forms of research enquiry through reviewing examples of research on car ownership. The examples demonstrate that the traditional idea of qualitative research being used to formulate theory and quantitative research being used to test theory is apparent, but it would be more accurate to describe the two types of research as being part of an iterative process of research which contributes to accumulated knowledge in a less predictable way. We advocate that common theoretical frameworks are applied to build knowledge using both qualitative and quantitative approaches. Although purely qualitative or purely quantitative longitudinal approaches can be designed to generate evidence on processes of change and causality, it will be beneficial to adopt both approaches to build a robust evidence base. Up to this point, a systematic approach has not been taken in combining research enquiry based on panel data with enquiry based on biographical interviews. We recommend researchers engage in considering the epistemological, methodological and analytical issues involved in combining the two forms of enquiry, as there is the prospect of making major strides in the understanding of personal mobility over the life course.

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Henrike Rau, Monika Popp and Johannes Mahne-Bieder

Mobility biographies research since the 2000s has generated an impressive range of insights into both structural and individual influences on people’s modal choice, including life events and ‘mobility milestones’ (Rau and Manton 2016) that either reinforce or reconfigure people’s mobility needs and options. In contrast, people’s (in)voluntary non-engagement in specific mobility practices such as cycling and related dynamics across the life course remain seriously under-researched, calling for mixed-methods inquiries that can address ‘what’ and ‘why’ questions. Drawing on RadAktiv, a mixed methods study of non-cyclists in Germany that investigates the impact of critical and incisive life events on people’s cycling practices, this chapter attends specifically to chances and challenges that arise when combining qualitative and quantitative modes of enquiry in mobility biographies research. Focusing on conceptual and methodological issues surrounding the identification and social-scientific investigation of life events, it advocates for a technical approach to mixing methods. It argues that such an approach, while problematic in some respects, is ideally suited to accommodate the existing diversity of ontological and epistemological viewpoints within the mobility biographies research community. Importantly, it would serve to expand the methodological strengths of this important research field by sparking fruitful epistemological and methodological debates across disciplinary boundaries.

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Maarten Kroesen

Capitalizing on the idea that life events force people to reconsider their travel routines, the mobility biographies approach has been developed as a framework to study how people change their travel behaviour over time. While the approach offers a promising framework to study travel behaviour change, it does seem to have reached its limits in being able to test existing or newly-developed theoretical notions. In this chapter a general conceptual model of travel behaviour change is presented that can be operationalised as a latent transition model and used to test a range of theoretical notions including the concept of habit, cognitive dissonance/consistency and social influence in the context of travel behaviour change. The approach is illustrated by three previously reported empirical studies. In future applications other theoretical notions may be explored, for example, the notion of stress. The chapter concludes by providing a suggestion to link the approach to qualitative research and by deriving several implications for policy.

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Romain Crastes dit Sourd and Chiara Calastri

An increasing number of travel behaviour studies are broadening their scope by not only collecting information about a single behavioural process, but trying instead to capture other relevant information such as the social and economic context or past choices and events which might influence the process under analysis. This has been done by incorporating new elements in travel surveys, often proposed in a di_erent strand of literature. As travel surveys become richer and more complex, survey engagement becomes a crucial concern to guarantee data quality. In this study, we develop a quantitative model which helps distinguish the e_ect of survey engagement from actual behavioural patterns in the collected data. We apply the technique to a rich dataset capturing individual background information, social networks, life-course events and travel diaries over two weeks. The results of this work show that a higher amount of reported information (in terms of trips in the diary, social contacts or life-course events) might be related to a more active or “hectic” lifestyle or to survey engagement, while other measures are uniquely related to survey engagement.

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Giulio Mattioli

´Mobility biographies´ research has highlighted how different forms of spatial mobilities co-evolve over the life course. Yet, so far, it has focused on (largely short-distance) daily travel behaviour, and relied on socio-psychological understandings of travel habits. In this conceptual chapter, I propose to extend the mobility biography approach to long-distance travel (LDT), arguing that this requires some adaptation. Given the nature of much LDT (infrequent, non-habitual, pre-planned 'breaks from routine') greater emphasis should be placed on life-long habituation and socialisation dynamics, i.e. how intensive patterns of LDT develop (or not) over the life course. Notably, the 'mobility links' between LDT and other forms of long-distance mobility (e.g. migration, multilocality) deserve particular attention, as they can be self-reinforcing. In the chapter, I focus in particular on three underlying mechanisms: i) the acquisition of skills and dispositions; ii) the development of spatially dispersed social networks; iii) the participation in distance-intensive social practices.

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Timo Ohnmacht, Vu Thi Thao and Widar von Arx

So far, the main focuses of job-mobility biographies have been entry into the labour market, changes to jobs and incomes, and retirement. However, the commitment to work within a coworking space context can also be understood as a key event, potentially affecting both short-term and long-term mobility decisions. In the framework of the mobility biographies approach, we present a theoretical contribution to the issue of how coworking spaces lead to new social and spatial restructurings. We argue that the recently emerging dynamics of digitalisation support job-mobility biographies that can scale down activity spaces connected with work (e.g., shorter commuting distances and fewer business trips). Finally, working hypotheses will be presented that can guide empirical investigations in future research addressing the triple bottom line model of sustainability (i.e., social, environmental, economic dimension).

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Nicholas J. Klein and Michael J. Smart

While rates of car ownership in the United States are very high, significant variation exists across time. Cross-sectional studies of car ownership mask Americans’ frequent transitions into and out of car ownership, especially among the poor and racial minorities. Yet transportation scholars know very little about the frequency and duration of carless episodes. We examine these bouts of carlessness and explore what influences the length of time that people in the US are without a car. We use data from the Panel Study of Income Dynamics (PSID), which has been following the same families and their descendants since 1968. We find that poor and minority families experience more frequent episodes of carlessness, and these spells last longer than for their white and more affluent counterparts. Using a survival analysis model, we find that income has the largest influences on being without a car, though even after controlling for income and other covariates, differences between white and minority families persist.

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Joachim Scheiner and Christian Holz-Rau

The chapter reports on a mobility biography study based on data from Germany. Change in car access from one year to the next is studied in couples who share a car. This is modelled using a multi-group path model that accounts for differences between men and women, and interactions between the two partners' time use and trip patterns. In terms of life course changes, the chapter accounts for continuous changes in paid and unpaid worktime, and the birth of a first or subsequent child. The results show multiple interactions between partners in the baseline year (prior to change) as well as over time. There are several effects of the birth of a child but these are less pronounced than expected. Generally, they suggest stronger effects of first births than higher-order births on time use, trip-making and car allocation. Conclusions for research highlight the shortcomings of our approach and the need to combine qualitative and quantitative methods.