Trip chaining while driving—comparing men's and women's behaviour
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Gord Baldwin and Sean Fagan
Trip chaining is the practice of stopping at intermediate points during a journey. Leaving home in one's car and stopping for a coffee, dropping children off at school, picking up dry-cleaning, all on the trip to work would be an example of trip chaining. It is encouraged as a good driving behaviour from an energy consumption perspective.1 It can also complicate the life of engineers planning commuter travel patterns.
While men predominated in terms of the number of trips and the distance driven in light vehicles in Canada in 2005, there were also differences between men's and women's trip chaining behaviours.
The longer the trip chain, that is the greater number of trip stages involved in a complete tour, the greater the likelihood that the driver was female.
During the morning commute, a higher percentage of women drive to schools and daycares and to retail establishments as their next stop after leaving home.
During the evening commute, a higher percentage of men than women drive directly home. A higher percentage of women drive to shopping centres, banks and other places of personal business, as their next stop after leaving work.
Why does this matter? Understanding the differences can help when planning transit routes, when analyzing traffic patterns, when trying to plan traffic calming measures, when trying to plan retail locations or when trying to plan "no stopping" or "no parking" time periods. Designing a roadway system to facilitate flow from point A to B is more complex if a large sub-set of the users requires intermediate stops at points C, D and E.2
What you should know about this study
This paper uses data from the 2005 Canadian Vehicle Survey (CVS) to examine trip chaining behaviour from a gender perspective. This is a voluntary vehicle-based survey started in 1999, conducted by Statistics Canada with funding from Transport Canada and Natural Resources Canada. The CVS provides quarterly and annual estimates of road vehicle activity (vehicle-kilometres and passenger-kilometres) for vehicles registered in Canada. A quarterly sample of vehicles is drawn from vehicle registration lists provided by the provincial and territorial governments.
The provincial component of the survey consists of two steps. The first step is a computer assisted telephone interview (CATI) with the registered owner of each sampled vehicle. This interview is used to collect some general information on the usage of the vehicle as well as to ask the respondent to complete a trip log specific to his/her vehicle type. The trip log is then mailed out as a second step. If respondents cannot be contacted by phone, the trip log is mailed out with a short questionnaire to collect some of the information normally collected during the CATI. For 2005, a total sample of 21,915 vehicles was drawn for the ten provinces.
To qualify as a chained trip for this study the following conditions had to be met:
- Only trips made by light vehicle types were analyzed (i.e. those weighing less than 4,500 kg). This was done to exclude travel in heavier truck and transport type vehicles that tend to be used for work purposes.
- Trips were made on the same day.
- Trips were consecutive, made by the same driver as identified by age and gender.
- A chain of trips was excluded if even one was made as part of the driver's job (i.e. while they were at work).
A trip chain or tour would be completed once the driver returned home (if the driver ventured out again later on the same day, then this would begin a new trip chain). With the exception of requiring all trips in a chain to be completed within the same calendar day, there was no other time period requirement for the completion of a trip chain in this analysis.
In the example given above of leaving home, stopping for a coffee, dropping children off at school, picking up dry-cleaning, and finally driving to one's place of work, there are:
- Four trip stages (home to coffee shop, coffee shop to school, school to dry cleaners, dry cleaners to work);
- Three stops—coffee shop, school and dry cleaners;
- One trip chain or tour—home to work.3
The Canadian Vehicle Survey defines a trip as a driver's travel from one location to another. Respondents are asked to report a new and separate trip each time the driver gets in the vehicle and travels and each time any passenger (or group of passengers) gets in or out of the vehicle.
It is possible that some vehicle destinations may not be reflected in a trip chain. A driver can go somewhere without actually getting out of the car, for example, full service gas stations, fast food drive-thrus, or a drive in the country. Even though the driver travelled somewhere, it is not considered a finished trip until they leave the vehicle or a passenger gets in or out.
While men predominated in the simplest of trips with one "stage" in the trip with 45% of their trips of this type as opposed to 39% for women, they showed the same propensity to make two stage trips (Table 1). For trips with three, four or five and more stages in the trip chain, women led men in every group.
The morning commute is a shorter period of time than the evening commute. For this reason the study used a four hour period for the morning commute and a six hour period for the evening commute.
If one examines trips by time of day, more differences become apparent. Comparing men and women for trips starting at home during the morning commute (from 6:00 am to 9:59 am) shows that a slightly higher percentage of men than women drove directly to work. A higher percentage of women drove to schools and daycares and retail establishments as their next stop after leaving home during morning rush hour (Table 2).
Overall, men comprised the majority of drivers for trips leaving home during the morning commute regardless of the destination (58% men versus 42% women). Of those drivers headed directly to work, 59% were men as opposed to 41% for women. Men also led in those heading to another workplace (a possible indicator the driver was involved in car pooling) by 61% to 39% for women.
In trips where the first destination in the trip chain after leaving home was to a leisure, entertainment, recreational facility or restaurant, men led 62% to 38%. Some studies in the United States have attributed the growth in trip chaining for men to "stops to get a meal or a coffee on the way to work, called the Starbucks effect."4
Men do the majority of driving in Canada according to the Canadian Vehicle Survey. In 2005, men driving light vehicles accounted for 68% of the vehicle-kilometres driven and women drivers for only 32% of the vehicle-kilometres.5
During the evening commute (trips starting between 2:00 and 7:59 pm), different patterns are also noticeable for men and women drivers. A higher percentage of men than women drove directly home. A higher percentage of women drove to shopping centres, banks and other places of personal business, as their next stop after leaving work (Table 3).
Trips showing next stage destination for trips starting at regular workplace during the evening commute, 2005
Grouped by the next stage destination, men comprised 60% of those drivers headed directly home as opposed to only 40% for women. Men also led in those heading to another workplace (possibly for another job, possibly involved in car pooling) by 54% to 46%. Men predominated in driving to medical/dental establishments by 63% to 37%. They also led in heading for leisure, entertainment, recreational facilities and restaurants by 61% to 39%.
Women leaving work in the evening led in driving to schools or daycares by 63% to 37%. They also led 56% to 44% in driving to shopping centres, banks and other places of personal business. Driving to someone else's home was also dominated by women by 53% to 47% for men. This could possibly indicate car pooling or picking up children from care-giving services in a private home as opposed to a daycare. That women are more likely to drive to these destinations is especially noteworthy when compared to the morning commute when men led in every category. Also as indicated earlier, men reported driving two-thirds of the vehicle-kilometres in light vehicles in the Canadian Vehicle Survey.
Differences are apparent in the trip chaining behaviour of drivers in Canada. Understanding the differences can help when planning transit routes, when analyzing traffic patterns, when trying to plan traffic calming measures, when trying to plan retail locations or when trying to plan "no stopping" or "no parking" time periods. Planners should be aware of the travel requirements of large sub-sets of the travelling public when planning transportation routes and infrastructure.
- For more information on transportation and energy consumption, please see the results of the Households and the Environment Survey, 2006 and Human Activity and the Environment, 2006, Statistics Canada Catalogue no. 11-526-X and 16-201-X.
- Planning models for the Montgomery County Planning Department, Maryland use trip purpose to account for chained trips. See David M. Levinson and Ajay Kumar, 1994, Multi-modal trip distribution: structure and application, p. 2, http://nexus.umn.edu/Papers/TripDistribution.pdf (accessed October 23, 2007).
- Nancy McGuckin and Elaine Murakami, 1999, Examining Trip-Chaining Behavior—A Comparison of Travel by Men and Women, Center for Transportation Analysis, p. 4, http://nhts.ornl.gov/npts/1995/Doc/Chain2.pdf (accessed January 17, 2007).
- Nancy McGuckin and Yukiko Nakamoto, 2005, "Differences in Trip Chaining by Men and Women", Research on Women's Issues in Transportation—Volume 2: Technical Papers, Transportation Research Board, p. 49, http://onlinepubs.trb.org/onlinepubs/conf/CP35v2.pdf (accessed October 15, 2007).
- Statistics Canada, 2005, Canadian Vehicle Survey: Annual 2005 (revised), Catalogue no. 53-223-X, Table 6-2, p. 21.
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