Car Stickiness: Heuristics and Biases in Travel Choice

Car Stickiness: Heuristics and Biases in Travel Choice

This article discusses an experiment conducted to investigate the factors contributing to travel mode choice. The experiment found that subjects were more inclined to chose cars over other forms of transportation, even when another form of transportation might have been more ideal based on cost or travel time. This demonstrates the concept of car stickiness, where travelers are heavily biased towards traveling in cars over other forms of transportation.

“We conduct a laboratory experiment to investigate the factors determining travel mode choice. Two different scenarios are considered.In the first scenario, subjects have to decide whether to commute by car or by metro. Metro costs are fixed, while car costs are uncertain and determined by the joint effect of casual events and traffic congestion. In the second scenario, subjects have to decide whether to travel by car or by bus, whose costs are determined by a different combination of chance and traffic congestion. Subjects receive feedback information on the actual travel times of both modes. We find that individuals show a marked preference for cars, are inclined to confirm their first choice and exhibit travel mode stickiness. We conclude that travel mode choice is subject to cognitive heuristics and biases leading to robust deviations from rational behavior.”

Key findings

“A first source of distortion comes from the fact that the variability of travel times is perceived as less than it really is because it is inferred by experienced times.”

“The fact the travel choices are mostly repeated choices also negatively affects travelers’ rationality. Habit triggers automatic reactions to information on travel modes that are not based on rational calculation.”

“Cars are generally perceived as the means of travel giving status, sense of comfort, control and freedom. The costs associated with cars are frequently undervalued because they are not paid entirely simultaneously with car use. These factors explain the common propensity to use private cars and the psychological resistance to reduce it.”

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