May 11, 2018


It’s Not All Fun and Games: An Investigation of the Reported Benefits and Disadvantages of Conducting Activities while Commuting


1:40pm - 3:00pm


1605 Tilia, Room 1103, West Village


Travel-based multitasking, or the performance of activities while traveling, is more feasible than ever before, as the expanding availability of shared ride services and increasing vehicle automation coincide with the ubiquity of portable information and communication technology devices. However, the question of how and whether these increasingly blurred boundaries between activities are truly helping rather than hurting us is not presently well-understood. Using the results from an attitudinally-rich travel survey of Northern California commuters (N ~ 2,500), we develop a conceptual and empirically-based framework for studying the benefits and disadvantages of travel-based multitasking. Through latent variable models of reported benefits and disadvantages of activities conducted on a recent commute, we identify constructs associated with hedonic and productive benefits, and with affective and cognitive disadvantages. This empirically-developed framework informs the definition of binary variables indicating the presence or absence of each construct for a given commuter. We then present two bivariate binary probit models that examine the effects of sociodemographic characteristics, chosen mode and mode attributes, attitudes, personality traits, and activities conducted or items carried while traveling, on those benefits and disadvantages, respectively. Notably, we find evidence that the same mode conditions and activities that may facilitate multitasking benefits can also simultaneously yield disadvantages, a finding that resonates within the general multitasking literature, and that empirically corroborates the suggestion that travel-based multitasking may not uniformly increase trip utility.

Biographical Sketch

Patricia Mokhtarian is the Susan G. and Christopher D. Pappas Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering (CEE) at the Georgia Institute of Technology. She joined Georgia Tech in 2013, after 23 years at the University of California, Davis, where she was a CEE Professor, Associate Director for Education of the Institute of Transportation Studies, and Founding Chair of the Transportation Technology and Policy Graduate Group. Prior to that, she spent nine years in regional planning and consulting in Southern California, after completing her PhD at Northwestern University. Dr. Mokhtarian has specialized in the application of rigorous quantitative methods to the study of travel behavior for more than 35 years. A key research interest has been the impact of telecommunications technology on travel behavior, with additional interests in land use and transportation interactions (especially the influence of the built environment on travel behavior, after accounting for self-selection), attitudes toward travel itself, multitasking, travel time budgets, induced demand, and congestion-response behavior. She has authored or co-authored more than 200 refereed journal articles, technical reports, and other publications. She is a recent Past Chair of the International Association for Travel Behaviour Research, is an editor of the journal Transportation, and serves on the editorial boards of six other transportation journals.

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