Examining Consumer Behavior and Travel Choices

Kelly Clifton, Portland State University


As cities around the country are making significant investments in pedestrian, bicycling and transit infrastructure, cycling, especially is on the rise. Many other cities, large and small, are eyeing this success and are recognizing the potential of cycling as a viable mode of transportation for their communities. These investments are often met with resistance from the business community because of uncertainty about the benefits and how they might accrue to them. This skepticism is based largely upon the perceptions that investments and policies that encourage cycling, walking and transit may inhibit automobile use and thus, interfere with a business model that depends largely upon an automobile-oriented customer base. There is little evidence from rigorous, objective studies to prove that these fears are unfounded. Given the extent and maturity of Portland's existing bicycling, transit and pedestrian infrastructure and the ambitious level of anticipated future investments here and elsewhere in the U.S., the timing is right to investigate the relative economic benefits of different modes in more depth. To fill this gap, this study examines the links between consumer behavior and the mode of transportation used to access local destinations, with the greater goal of providing the empirical evidence needed to inform decision making and educate the public. We limit our scope to the examination of the relationships between consumer expenditures and their trip making behavior, including mode of travel and frequency of trips in the Portland metropolitan area. We are guided by the following objectives: -- Evaluating the person and vehicle trip generation characteristics for various businesses located across a variety of environments; -- Quantifying the various transportation mode shares of customers for a variety of business types, locations and transportation contexts; and -- Comparing the levels of consumer expenditures and frequency of visits at local businesses by modes of travel. Cities and other public agencies can use this research to better understand how businesses might be affected by changes to the built environment and to transportation infrastructure. Public agencies can use this information to help business owners understand the potential economic benefits of improvements to bicycling and pedestrian infrastructure and to understand what factors limit the potential benefits. Business owners can themselves use this information to better understand their customer markets. Travel distances, neighborhood location, and site design can all influence the number and types of people that patronize their establishment, which in turn affects their bottom line. Moreover, businesses looking to make improvements to their store or try new marketing strategies can benefit from more detailed knowledge about their potential customers' travel and shopping patterns. Note: "TR News" is a copyright of the National Academy of Sciences. Article to the right posted with permission of the Transportation Research Board.

Project Details

Project Type:
Project Status:
End Date:
September 30,2012
UTC Grant Cycle:
OTREC 2011
UTC Funding: