1.47 - Uncovering Trends and Determinants of the Commuting Patterns in Academia, the Case of FEUP’ Students, 2006, 2012 & 2017

Project Description

It is widely recognized that new mobility patterns should emerge, however, it is still uncovered how to influence these patterns. Despite several strategies towards promoting a more sustainable mobility behavior (eco-efficiency, multimodality, green mobility), worrying trends persist. In recent years, the commuting patterns of university students have gained increasing attention. The reason for this interest is not only because university students’ movements represent a large number of the city’s commuters, but mainly because students represent an important target group in the transformation of behaviours. Students’ travel behaviour differs from the general population’s (Zhou 2012) as they are more prone to change (this is generally the time when they develop their independence and begin to make their own decisions) and because some of them are likely to become future leaders (Balsas 2003; Zhou 2016).  Indeed, Universities not only have a central role in finding and promoting new research planning tools as well as on promoting new behaviors.

This research explores the main changes in university students’ commuting patterns. More specifically, the purpose of this thesis is to analyse the main factors that influence these patterns and ascertain their interrelations, as well as the main barriers and motivations affecting transport decisions. Exploring university students' travel behaviour at different moments in time can reveal fundamental and valuable information to provide better guidance on future action. We argue that is necessary, at planning level, raising awareness of time and different scales of context for policy design, not only local contextual data but also macrosocial ones. Different cultures, economies or geographies lead to different mobility patterns and little has been done on university students’ travel behaviour and its influencing factors along the time, particularly in the Portuguese context. Uncovering students’ perception and travel behaviour changes may support the formulation of policy recommendations for university transport management.

To accomplish the referred objectives, a mixed methods design is adopted, combining qualitative methods (interviews) and quantitative methods (survey). The empirical study will focus on college students attending Faculty of Engineering of the University of Oporto in 2006, 2012 and 2017. This timeline covers both pre-crisis and post-crisis data in Portugal. It is our purpose to explore how commuting patterns of university students have changed, before, during and after the period of austerity crisis. An important contribution will be the development of a conceptual and methodological framework, facilitating the use of appropriate instruments and policy applications that may support a better travel demand management at the university level and thus in general terms

Research Team
  • Catarina Cadima
  • Paulo Pinho (Supervisor)
  • Cecília Silva (co-supervisor)

Financial Support
  • Funding from FCT-Fundação para a Ciência e a Tecnologia, PhD studies, reference PD/BD/114008/2015.
Stage of Progress
  • Started in December 2015