Börjesson Rivera, Miriam
Getting there and back again – Commuting and ICT in six cities across the globe
Report from the KTH Centre for Sustainable Communications, Stockholm.
ISSN:1654-479X, TRITA-SUS 2012:1
Ericsson ConsumerLab performed a qualitative exploratory study of how people experience daily commuting in three different countries. This report aims to present the outcome of the study in such a way that the data can be useful for further analyses and studies of commuting in relation to ICT use and environmental sustainability. Based on the study’s findings this report will present analytical data on: i) how ICT can be linked to everyday travel in order to facilitate commuting from the user’s point of view; and ii) how ICT solutions can enable commuting in an environmentally more sustainable way.
The study, which had an ethnographic approach, showed that in general, commuters would like their commuting time to be, or at least seem, as short as possible. The respondents spend hours commuting every week and often claim to consider it a waste of time. Regardless of means of transport, they would like to get the most out of their commuting time (working, socialising, relaxing etc.), which implies that there is a demand for further technological improvements in this area (voice recognition services in cars, privacy settings in public transport, connectivity in public transport, etc.). An aspect that adds to how people perceive their commuting time concerns the extent to which its duration is predictable – even if the time cannot be shortened, commuters at least want to know how much time they will spend on their daily commute, so that they can plan their day with more certainty.
Irrespective of means of transport, two major frustrations for commuters are lack of flow and the presence and behaviour of other people. People seem to lack good real-time information enabling them to avoid interruptions in their commute and much of their frustration relates to poor infrastructure conditions and management. Frustration with other people derives from their conduct in traffic contributing to inconveniences, congestion or hazards, or from noise, smell or littering on public transport.
The greatest motivators for commuting by car are a feeling of independence in relation to other people, schedule and choice of route, and the private space the car offers. This means that the car provides flexibility in terms of when and how people travel, while also providing a private space both mentally (“in the car you can do whatever you want”) and physically (“you don’t have to hustle with others on the bus or train”). The major frustration when commuting by car is the need to focus on driving, so drivers cannot utilise time as they would wish.
People generally justify their choice of public transport by anti-car arguments, which include difficulty in finding a parking space at work, expensive parking, fear of driving, lack of driving licence etc., but can also motivate their choice as giving them ‘me-time’ without having to focus on driving. The major frustration with commuting by public transport is dependency on time schedules and the shortcomings of the public transport network. This is exacerbated by a lack of relevant information or available options. However, commuting can be improved in a variety of ways for car and public transport users with the help of ICT. From a sustainability perspective, it is important to exploit the potential of ICT solutions to facilitate more environmentally friendly practices.
Many of the ICT (Information Communication Technology) solutions identified in this report require reliable access to the internet and/or mobile phone network. The mobile phone is currently the single most important internet device while commuting, thus perhaps being the point of departure for many of the solutions, such as travel planner, ticketing options, etc, but for car users mobile phone services need to be adapted through better in-car voice recognition technologies, since the focus needs to be on driving. Current information services could be more personalised and contextualised in order to better suit the individual driver and most of these ICT solutions and services are also applicable to public transport commuters, but an additional function for such commuters could be some kind of ‘emergency button’ on mobile phones to increase their sense of security in travel.
Home office solutions are a way of avoiding the frustrations of commuting altogether. While working from home is regarded by some with ambivalence and is impossible for many, there are ways of refining these solutions.