Opportunities and Threats
NECTAR Series on Transportation and Communications Networks Research
Edited by Nikolas Thomopoulos, Mosche Givoni and Piet Rietveld
Chapter 2: The opportunities and threats of travel information: a behavioural perspective
This chapter focuses on the behavioural effects of travel information provision, one of the main goals for ICT in transport. These effects are quite complex and difficult to model or predict and are intertwined with the cognitive and affective aspects of how humans resolve uncertainties through heuristics. Information effects depend on the type of information (experiential, descriptional, forgone, or prescriptive) and on the type of choice environment (non-competitive or competitive). From the individual’s viewpoint information is mostly beneficial in the short term, expediting learning of variable traffic conditions. Information provides a mental anchor and greater sense of self-control in ambiguous situations. Information generates feelings of regret, namely when information on forgone alternatives is given. Attitudes and affective stickiness further inhibit both acquisition of information and change of behaviour, for example to a different mode. From the viewpoint of network management, information can assist in contending with non-recurring incidents and delays by switching to less congested routes or other modes. Yet undesirable effects including excessive route switching associated with saturation on downstream links where information is supplied, remain relevant threats. Too much information leads overall traffic distributions to converge towards the inefficient conditions associated with a steady-state user equilibrium. The main drawback of current information provision strategies is failure in making substantial changes to the competitive nature of the transport system and its use. Future ICT could well provide novel opportunities to utilize information to optimize traffic flow and reshape travel behaviours through cooperation and social learning implemented with choice architecture.
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