Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Commuting times stay constant even as distances change

17.06.2014

Research on urban mobility shows how transportation options let commuters limit time in transit

How much commuting can you tolerate? A new study by MIT researchers shows that across countries, people assess their commutes by the time it takes them to complete the trip, generally independent of the distance they have to travel — as long as they have a variety of commuting options to chose from.

The study, which compares commuting practices in five locations on four continents, also demonstrates the methodological validity of using mobile phone data to create an accurate empirical picture of commuting.

"Every country has had its own different way of doing things and collecting data," says Carlo Ratti, an associate professor of the practice in MIT's Department of Urban Studies and Planning, director of MIT's Senseable City Lab, and a co-author of the new study. "Here we have standard data which allows us, for the first time, to evaluate mobility across countries."

Commuting research has often been conducted via surveys, making it difficult to develop cross-country comparisons. But by using anonymized phone data, the MIT researchers found some fundamentally similar patterns in different locations.

"It really reveals that commuting patterns around the globe are constant," says Stanislav Sobolevsky, a researcher at the Senseable City Laboratory and a co-author of the paper, published in the journal PLoS ONE. The paper's co-authors are Ratti, Sobolevsky, Kevin Kung, and Kael Greco, all of the Senseable City Laboratory.

"There was an element of surprise in how well the data showed this," says Kung, the corresponding author on the paper.

From Massachusetts to Africa

The researchers studied three metropolitan areas where a diversity of transport options let commuters keep travel times steady.

In Portugal, people could tolerate about 70 minutes of commuting in the morning, a figure that held fairly constant for commutes ranging anywhere from about 5 kilometers to more than 40 kilometers. About 28 percent of commuting trips around the country's largest city, Lisbon, occurred on public transport — suggesting that commuters seem willing to budget the same amount of time whether they walk, drive, or take buses or trains.

The data show that in Ivory Coast, morning commutes average just under 80 minutes regardless of distance, while in the Boston area, morning commutes range from 50 to 60 minutes, again across many distances.

By contrast, using GPS data in a location where automobiles are the only realistic commuting option — Riyadh, Saudi Arabia — the researchers found that the amount of time spent commuting did, in fact, correlate to the distance traveled: The further commuters had to go by car, the longer it took them.

In Riyadh, only 2 percent of commuting trips were on public transport, and the average morning commute was about 50 minutes for trips of 5 to 20 kilometers, but increased to about 65 minutes for commutes of 20 to 40 kilometers.

People adapt

The researchers also used GPS data to study automobile-based commutes in Milan, Italy. There, the morning commutes of drivers increased from 40 minutes, for those traveling up to 10 kilometers, to 60 minutes for those traveling 10 to 20 kilometers, and more than 80 minutes for those traveling 20 to 40 kilometers.

As in Riyadh, driving distance related to time spent in the vehicle, although data from all forms of commuting — Milan also has suburban rail lines, for instance — would be needed to characterize the overall pattern of commuting in the area.

The researchers believe the findings may have practical applications for urban planners and designers — especially knowing that commuters will use a variety of transportation options to stabilize their commute times, rather than insisting on driving to work.

"It suggests that in places that have a lot of different transportation options available, this [limit on time] holds quite well," Greco says. "In places that lean in one direction, car cultures, we saw a stronger association between distance and time." Sobolevsky adds: "People try to adapt to their situations."

The research also gives some support to a hypothesis, published by Italian physicist Cesare Marchetti in the 1990s, that humans have universally had commute times of about an hour, throughout history. Because the new findings show commute times varying across countries, but having regular patterns within those countries, the co-authors in the paper say the data represents the "localized form" of Marchetti's idea.

The researchers suggest that additional studies, with more granular phone data, could further refine the broad patterns found in their research.

"When cities in general take survey approaches to understand how people move, these are fraught with inaccuracies, and they're inconsistent from country to country," Greco says. "If you can standardize that measurement procedure, it becomes much easier to look at how people move on global level."

###

The study is part of a larger research project sponsored by mobile equipment manufacturer Ericsson that is being conducted by the Senseable City Lab.

Written by Peter Dizikes, MIT News Office

Abby Abazorius | Eurek Alert!
Further information:
http://www.mit.edu

More articles from Studies and Analyses:

nachricht Drone vs. truck deliveries: Which create less carbon pollution?
31.05.2017 | University of Washington

nachricht New study: How does Europe become a leading player for software and IT services?
03.04.2017 | Fraunhofer-Institut für System- und Innovationsforschung (ISI)

All articles from Studies and Analyses >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Can we see monkeys from space? Emerging technologies to map biodiversity

An international team of scientists has proposed a new multi-disciplinary approach in which an array of new technologies will allow us to map biodiversity and the risks that wildlife is facing at the scale of whole landscapes. The findings are published in Nature Ecology and Evolution. This international research is led by the Kunming Institute of Zoology from China, University of East Anglia, University of Leicester and the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research.

Using a combination of satellite and ground data, the team proposes that it is now possible to map biodiversity with an accuracy that has not been previously...

Im Focus: Climate satellite: Tracking methane with robust laser technology

Heatwaves in the Arctic, longer periods of vegetation in Europe, severe floods in West Africa – starting in 2021, scientists want to explore the emissions of the greenhouse gas methane with the German-French satellite MERLIN. This is made possible by a new robust laser system of the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT in Aachen, which achieves unprecedented measurement accuracy.

Methane is primarily the result of the decomposition of organic matter. The gas has a 25 times greater warming potential than carbon dioxide, but is not as...

Im Focus: How protons move through a fuel cell

Hydrogen is regarded as the energy source of the future: It is produced with solar power and can be used to generate heat and electricity in fuel cells. Empa researchers have now succeeded in decoding the movement of hydrogen ions in crystals – a key step towards more efficient energy conversion in the hydrogen industry of tomorrow.

As charge carriers, electrons and ions play the leading role in electrochemical energy storage devices and converters such as batteries and fuel cells. Proton...

Im Focus: A unique data centre for cosmological simulations

Scientists from the Excellence Cluster Universe at the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität Munich have establised "Cosmowebportal", a unique data centre for cosmological simulations located at the Leibniz Supercomputing Centre (LRZ) of the Bavarian Academy of Sciences. The complete results of a series of large hydrodynamical cosmological simulations are available, with data volumes typically exceeding several hundred terabytes. Scientists worldwide can interactively explore these complex simulations via a web interface and directly access the results.

With current telescopes, scientists can observe our Universe’s galaxies and galaxy clusters and their distribution along an invisible cosmic web. From the...

Im Focus: Scientists develop molecular thermometer for contactless measurement using infrared light

Temperature measurements possible even on the smallest scale / Molecular ruby for use in material sciences, biology, and medicine

Chemists at Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz (JGU) in cooperation with researchers of the German Federal Institute for Materials Research and Testing (BAM)...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Plants are networkers

19.06.2017 | Event News

Digital Survival Training for Executives

13.06.2017 | Event News

Global Learning Council Summit 2017

13.06.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Touch Displays WAY-AX and WAY-DX by WayCon

27.06.2017 | Power and Electrical Engineering

Drones that drive

27.06.2017 | Information Technology

Ultra-compact phase modulators based on graphene plasmons

27.06.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>