An Analysis of Travel Efficiency Within the Context of Geographic Education and the Daily Trip Plan
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This study, undertaken during the Spring 2012 academic semester, measures changes to transportation efficiency caused by intensive geographical training. In so doing, fifty-six college human geography students recorded trips on trip logs for two weeks (Phase I) without being given any suggestions as to how their travel behavior and patterns might be conducted in a more efficient manner. Almost 4,000 trips were recorded. Next, I presented as their instructor, four weeks of intense geographical training (treatment). During this time, to better familiarize them with surrounding land-uses and more efficient spatial opportunities, students reconstructed through direct observation mapping, four of the closest commercial districts to their place of residence, parcel-by-parcel, business-by-business. Students became acquainted with the spatial layout and alternative destinations in their geographical area through the internet, and through the use of maps and other learning tools. In-class discussions about travel efficiency, energy savings, sustainability, the principle of least effort, gravity models, the traveling salesman model, distance decay concepts, the value of a person’s time, spatial analysis, and place utility were addressed as part of this 4-week geography education classroom component. After four weeks of intense geography education on these topics, students resumed keeping detailed trip logs for a period of two weeks (Phase II), in an effort to measure travel efficiency through geographical, spatial, and experiential learning. Upon completion of the study, “before,” and “after,” data sets were compared, and conclusions were drawn, based upon both quantitative and qualitative information from the students.
Research employed a mixed methodology, using both quantitative and qualitative approaches. The trip log survey instrument included variables for each trip taken, such as origin, destination, departure and arrival time, distance from origin to destination, travel mode for each trip taken for each day, etc. For the Phase II travel diary, conducted four weeks later in the semester, students used the sketch-map concept, in which they used a base map of the San Diego region, and marked where they intended to travel over the network, at the outset of each day (or the night before). In addition to collecting quantifiable trip log data, students were required to submit the sketch map for each day of the second iteration of the trip logs (Phase II). This is what I call the daily trip plan (DTP), a term coined within the context of my research. The sketch map was drawn daily, just prior to that same day’s travel diary in an effort to help students plan an efficient day of trip-making. Students wrote an in-depth qualitative analysis of their experience, including documenting their trip logs and mapping exercises, and the degree to which geographical training that they received in a classroom affected their “after” travel. Four of eleven quantitative questions seeking to measure dependent variables yielded results that were statistically significant using a one-tailed paired t-test, and six of the remaining seven hypotheses achieved the desired outcome in terms of direction of change. With regard to the qualitative component, responses were analyzed using both the segmenting and reassembling method, as well as the Likert scaling method. An overwhelming majority of students reported positive results, i.e., making moves toward sustainability throughout the semester, based on the provided geography education and the use of the DTP. Improved urban travel efficiencies can seemingly be achieved with enriched geographic education, simple a priori planning, and basic sketch techniques.