International Choice Modelling Conference, International Choice Modelling Conference 2017

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Taking the detour – Travelers’ information compliance with system-beneficial travel information.
Mariska van Essen, Tom Thomas, Eric van Berkum, Caspar Chorus

Last modified: 28 March 2017


Travel information is expected to be successful in improving road network efficiency by directing the network state from a user equilibrium towards a system optimum. Yet, conventional (personalised) travel information aims at the individual’s benefit, stimulating travellers’ personal optimization of their own route choices; this leads to the inefficient user equilibrium. Examples on network efficiency have shown that in order to achieve system optimal network conditions, part of the travellers need to cooperate and choose route alternatives possibly at their own expense (i.e. they might need to take a detour). A crucial and unanswered question in this regard is how to motivate travellers to comply with received route advice when the advised route implies a personal travel time sacrifice for the benefit of the road network. This study assesses individuals’ route choices in response to various system-beneficial information messages in different contexts using a stated choice experiment specifically designed for this purpose. Until now, only a few studies consider cooperative routing, and those mainly focus on network effects by building upon theoretical assumptions rather than empirical findings. This study is the first to collect and analyse empirical data on cooperative route choice behaviour.


The stated choice experiment was conducted online among 211 commuters, which were recruited through the employee portal of the University of Twente (Enschede, The Netherlands) and through social media (Facebook and Twitter). Respondents were asked to picture a hypothetical commute trip and were provided with an information message regarding this trip. They were told that the received message was sent by their local government and were asked to choose between two route alternatives: their (hypothetical) usual route (travel time: 28 minutes) and some ‘similar route’ with a slightly higher travel time. Each respondent received the information message in line with one of four distinct information strategies that have been developed in order to influence individuals’ route choice behaviour without restricting their freedom of choice. Each strategy has the objective to improve network efficiency. These strategies either capitalize on existing bounded rationality or focus on influencing individuals’ attitude towards choosing cooperative routes and can be characterised as ‘Recommendation’, ‘Nudge’, ‘Social Reinforcement’ and ‘Education’. A 2x3 full factorial design was used that considers different travel time sacrifices by the respondent (i.e. small (3 minutes) versus large (7 minutes)) and several societal goals (i.e. congestion alleviation, traffic safety increases and environmental sustainability improvement) that are aimed for by the information message. Moreover, in order to assess whether certain personality traits influenced the responses, information related to the respondents’ level of (bounded) rationality and their attitude towards cooperative behaviour in general was measured, as well as the extent to which their choices are deliberate or habit-driven. This was done using validated questionnaires from the field of social psychology.


Respondents’ tendency to comply with the route advice was analysed by means of estimating Mixed Logit models accounting for panel effects. Models were estimated for the full sample and for several segmentations and experimental conditions. We found that travellers sometimes do choose the cooperative route alternative over their usual route when they are being advised or asked to do so (overall compliance rate: 46%). In this, a large variation was found in terms of travellers’ intrinsic inclination to comply with the system-beneficial routing information. Focusing on statistically significant results, we find that travellers are most likely to choose the cooperative route alternative when small travel time sacrifices are involved (this was to be expected; compliance rate: 55% versus 34% for a large sacrifice), when information messages are aiming at alleviating congestion (compliance rate: 50% versus 44% for increasing traffic safety and 43% for improving environmental sustainability), and when these messages are framed according to the ‘Nudge’-strategy, ‘Social Reinforcement’-strategy or ‘Education’-strategy (compliance rates: 47%, 43% and 50%, respectively, versus 40% for the ‘Recommendation’-strategy). Moreover, travellers are most likely to comply with the received advice when they are cooperatively oriented (compliance rate: 49% versus 40% for non-cooperatives) and when they make their choices in a non-habitual manner (compliance rate: 55% versus 36% for habit executioners).

Further analyses which segments travellers according to their personality traits suggests that cooperators and non-cooperators respond differently to the ‘Social Reinforcement’-strategy; cooperators are more likely to comply with the social reinforcing advice than non-cooperators (compliance rate: 52% and 33%, respectively). Cooperators also seem to care more about environmental sustainability as their counterparts; i.e. cooperators are more likely to comply in response to information messages aiming at this societal goal than non-cooperators (compliance rate: 49% and 34%, respectively). Moreover, it seems that habit executioners and non-habit executioners respond differently to the ‘Nudge’-strategy; habit executioners are less likely to comply with nudging advice than non-habituals (compliance rate: 31% and 63%, respectively). Finally, although being either a maximizer or satisficer did not seem to influence a travellers’ tendency to comply in general, a difference in compliance tendency between maximizers and satisficers was observed in response to the ‘Education’-strategy; i.e. maximizers are more likely to comply in response to educating advice than satisficers (compliance rate: 55% and 19%, respectively).


In short, this study empirically explores travellers’ compliance tendency in response to travel information messages that aim at a system optimum; we distinguish between various ways of framing the information, we use different societal goals underlying the information and we segment travellers according to various latent personality traits. The empirical analysis provides us with unique behavioural insights which provide a deeper, empirically rooted understanding of the effect of system-beneficial travel information on route choice behaviour. Our next step is to put these findings to the test in a real-world experiment using a smartphone application.

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