Monday, June 22, 2009

Satoshi Fujii: Think your way to travel less

The most effective target is car users, and the most important point is to provide an opportunity to think their way to travel less. For achieving environmentally sustainable society, various types of pro-environmental behavior to reduce CO2 emission are believed to be called for. These include: adjusting the temperature of air-conditioning, turning off lights and electronic appliances as often as possible, and . . . the reduction of car use.

Among various pro-environmental behaviors that people can perform in daily life, car-user-reduction behavior is known to be the most effective option. Yearly CO2 reduction by reduction of car use for 10 minutes a day (588 kg;/year) is around 20 times greater than adjusting the thermostat by 1 degree through the year (32 kg/year), and around 300 times greater than the one resulting from turning off a TV (32 kg/year).

However, this “fact” is not well known to drivers. Therefore, their pro-environmental behavior would often be inefficient in terms of CO2 reduction, even though they were to be highly motivated to reduce such greenhouse gas emissions. Consequently, practical measures to promote people’s voluntary behavior change to reduce car use are strongly called for in environmental policy making.

In order to reduce car use, many developed countries including European countries, Australia and Japan have implemented mobility management. Mobility management focuses on attempting to change travel behaviour using communication.

A typical mobility management communicative measure is a travel feedback programs (TFP). In the TFP, participants receive information designed to modify behaviour. Such feedback would be effective because it induces behavioural awareness, an essential element in modification.

This feedback may also prompt participants to increase their knowledge of specific methods for modifying their travel behaviour. A meta analysis of effectiveness of TFPs shows that about 20% car use has been reduced on average for those who participated in the programs.

This substantial effectiveness of such communicative measures implies that people can change their behavior for the purpose of contributing to public wellbeing.

It was also implied that a reason for them not to change their travel behavior in the past would be just a lack of opportunity to think their way to travel less. Thus, a program to provide such an opportunity to think their way to travel can have a substantial effect in reduction of car use.

Transport policy makers, and environmental policy makers, need to give attention to the fact that car use reduction is the most effective approach for CO2 reduction from daily life, and mobility management such as TFPs offers a promising method for significant car use reduction.

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Satoshi Fujii is professor of psychological-based transportation planning research in Kyoto University and director of the Japanese Conference on Mobility Management. e-mail: ujii@trans.kuciv.kyoto-u.ac.jp

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