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Virtual Mobility 2

Conclusions of the study

These are the conclusions from the study:

On the travel impacts of telework:

  • The direct transport substitution effects of home-based and centre-based teleworking have been repeatedly measured in the literature, showing statistically significant reductions in travel

  • Other forms of teleworking – mobile/nomadic, online collaboration and remote monitoring/diagnostics – have been insufficiently researched to draw firm conclusions. Some studies of mobile teleworking indicate significant travel savings, primarily through the elimination of commute journeys

  • Studies of the complementary or travel generation effects of telework mostly rely on speculation when it comes to attributing new trips. The few studies which measure additional trips by teleworkers in implemented schemes do not find that these trips eliminate the travel savings. However, these studies generally do not include trips made by other household members

  • Studies that aggregate transport effects to a national level generally fail to convince. Much more work needs to be done to gather the base data for this kind of exercise.

  • The “substitution versus complementarity debate” is unresolved. Data on the “substitution” side is generally balanced by informed conjecture on the “complementarity” side. An American school of researchers, however, appears to have decided in favour of complementarity. Though crucial to the validity of certain traffic reduction policies, to some extent the debate can be a touch facile. Either way, there are significant transport effects that research and policy need to get to grips with. Complementarity implies redistribution of travel, and the new journeys and new locations of activities are important issues for transport research.

On the transport impact of ebusiness and ecommerce:

  • Research in these areas is under-developed in comparison to the research into teleworking – but in fairness, this is a field of study in its infancy.

  • Research tends to focus on different models or scenarios for both business-to-business interactions and for business-to-consumer ecommerce. Research needs to test the validity of these models.

  • Some research tends to indicate that increasing efficiency will absorb much of any increase in freight movements, though most commentators expect increases in vans delivering to consumers. Some studies adopting speculative approaches anticipate savings of up to 18% in HGV movements. This is an area lacking in observed data, but as implemented ecommerce schemes mature, there is scope for research into the transport effects. This is, however, a very commercially sensitive area.

  • There is a considerable literature on the use of ICT in supply chains and for improving the efficiency of logistics and transport systems. Sometimes statements about possible traffic volume effects may be included, sometimes inappropriately. This literature for the most part does not deal with the core interests of this project. In volume, however, it dwarfs the research in our field of study. The disparity does, however, reflect the research priorities of both the private and public sectors when looking at ICT and transport.

  • There is no consensus on the implications for passenger travel. The principle of ecommerce implies fewer trips. But there is no data as yet to show if this is the case. Some studies adopting speculative approaches anticipating savings of 10% or more.

  • Research possibly exaggerates the innovative aspects of consumer ecommerce, much of which can arguably be considered a subset of home shopping alongside catalogue shopping and TV shopping.

  • There is little research into the transport impacts of “dematerialising” goods and services. This is an important area for future research.

On the impacts of teleservices:

  • Approaches to the range of ICT “teleservices” (beyond home shopping) are almost entirely confined to the speculative.

  • One study projects a 20% reduction in social trips between 1996 and 2010. Mostly, however, use of teleservices is identified as an unquantified trip-generation factor weighing against reductions achieved through teleworking.

  • The impact of teleservices, and a “networked society” receives more attention in spatial studies. These are invariably of a speculative nature, and suggest teleservices will be a factor in making households more footloose, and will contribute to urban sprawl or contribute to “hypermobility”.
    Some more ambitious speculative studies propose new paradigms for spatial planning by mapping the geography of “cyberspace” or “hyperspace”. These studies tend to be bound together by disparate data (where there is any at all) and very cerebral approaches, although they do propose some innovative concepts that may prove useful.

  • Much more data is needed on the transport impacts of online services in the fields of healthcare, government, learning and leisure before further conclusions can be drawn.

General issues:

  • Transport-focused analyses of ICT use tend to take an undifferentiated or simplistic approach to ICT-based activities. Business or technology-focused studies tend to do likewise in terms of transport. There is fertile ground here for both inter-disciplinary approaches and for greater intellectual rigour in designing research methodologies.

Further Information

For further information, see the project website at:

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