Should we abandon activity type analysis? Redefining activities by their salient attributes

Research paper by Sean T. Doherty

Indexed on: 28 Jun '06Published on: 28 Jun '06Published in: Transportation


This paper poses a challenge and begins a search. The challenge is to reconsider the usefulness of traditional activity types (“work”, “shopping”, etc.) in the understanding and modelling of travel behaviour. The search is for the more salient attributes of activities that may serve to better explain complex travel behaviours—such as activity scheduling and tour formation. In particular, this paper focuses on explicit measures of the spatial, temporal and interpersonal flexibility of activities, along with several traditional attributes (frequency, duration, involved persons, travel time, and location). Data from a recent in-depth week-long activity scheduling survey was used to define and compare these attributes. Results show that considerable variability in the attributes between and within traditional activity groups is evident. This casts considerable uncertainty on assumptions that statically assign levels of spatial, temporal, and interpersonal flexibility to any given activity type. A Principal Components Analysis further revealed eight new distinct clusters of activities that share like attributes. The relative role of each attribute in each component is examined, and subjective interpretations emerged (e.g., “Long and frequent”, “Space and time flexible” “Social networking”). The implications of these results for future model development and research are discussed. Future research should continue to expand the search for salient attributes and link them more directly to decision processes.