The travel script : exploring the construction and engagement of a mental structure as the link between the influence of situational and social - psychological factors in commuting decisions along a life course
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To realise a resource efficient urban transport system, both hard and soft, or voluntary behaviour change policy measures, have to be implemented. Understanding the interplay of different factors surrounding the travel decision making process is necessary to support this policy approach. This qualitative research explored the travel script as the mental link between situational and social - psychological factors in individuals’ travel decisions. Using in-depth interviews, the commuting histories of 82 commuters in Edinburgh, Scotland were collected and analysed. Factors that enabled or constrained the preferred commute mode were identified as the building blocks or knowledgeability of a travel script. Key events along a life course were identified as the situations that bound these constraints and enablers, making them more or less salient influencers of the travel decision at different points in the life course. By considering the sequence of key events related to the household, employment or residential biographies, and those related to mode changes, the study explored when the knowledgeability of the life course may lead to a turning point in the commuting biography of individuals. The study also considered how individuals judge the amount of mental effort to be expended to engage a travel script at the turning point; and later in bringing about the sustained engagement of the travel script. Individuals were noted as belonging within the identity group either geared at economising mental effort or digging deeper to “an extra little thing in the system” to engage the preferred travel script. Furthermore, in the engagement of a travel script, social - psychological attributes underlying the commute goals and the desired state of self - identity seem to be evaluated in such a way as to be in line with these identity groups. The research findings emphasise the reflexive interdependence of situational and social - psychological factors in bringing about a turning point and sustaining the travel script engaged afterwards. The treatment of the construction and engagement of the travel script along individual’s life courses in this study provides an original contribution to travel behaviour literature: firstly in its use of concepts from Structuration theory, which no other travel behaviour study has used; secondly, in its addition of knowledge to the mobility biography, travel habits and travel identities literature. The research also provides further evidence to researchers on the need for extensive public transport and active travel infrastructure; and the need for a patient and concerted effort towards a culture change away from car dependence in commuting.