News | METRANS, PSR, TRB Committees Host Goulias for Travel Behavior Research Webinar

Stop the Video



by Hayley Rundle, USC Price Master of Urban Planning

On September 24, 2020, METRANS, the Pacific Southwest Region University Transportation Center (PSR) and the TRB Standing Committee AME20, Women and Gender in Transportation, launched their respective Fall 2020 Webinar Series with a collaborative event. Titled “Taxonomy of Daily Travel and Time Use Patterns Using Sequence Analysis to Explore Schedule Fragmentation and Gender Roles,” this first event showcased the travel behavior research of Dr. Konstadinos (Kostas) G. Goulias, Professor of Transportation in the Geography Department at the University of California, Santa Barbara. The event was also co-hosted by the TRB AEP30 Standing Committee on Traveler Behavior and Values.  “We are delighted to start the fall seminar series with one of the world’s experts on travel behavior research,” noted METRANS and PSR Director Dr. Genevieve Giuliano. “Having the two TRB committees join METRANS as co-sponsors was “an added pleasure,” added Dawn Hood, Associate Director of Development and Finance for the University of Minnesota’s Center for Transportation Studies and Chair of the TRB Women and Gender in Transportation Committee.  These collaborative efforts allow “important research findings” to be shared with a wider audience and “spark continued conversation about women and gender in transportation,” she expressed. 


The webinar was attended by transportation enthusiasts from across the nation, including public and private sector transportation professionals, faculty, researchers, and students at all levels of study. The session began with a formal presentation and then moved to a discussion of the audience’s questions. 


“It was a great webinar,” remarked USC Price School of Public Policy, Master of Urban Planning student Anita Weaver. “I really enjoyed Prof. Goulias's ability to make his and his team's complex research on sequence analysis both understandable and relatable. It was exciting to learn the human stories behind the patterns, particularly in terms of gender and household schedule fragmentation. I can imagine that there are many applications of this research in terms of aging in cities, one of my primary interests, and I intend to research the topic further.” 


Goulias focused on six research questions:   


  • Who is more likely to have complex daily patterns?
  • Where do we find more complex patterns (city versus suburbs)?
  • Are these patterns different across the days of a week?
  • Are men and women different in pattern complexity?
  • What role do children in the household play?
  • Does disability impact pattern complexity?


Goulias began by describing a typical fragmented travel schedule and what it might look like for various types of travelers, and he noted how he and his team of researchers calculated the entropy (or disorder and unpredictability) of various travel schedules. This entropy, he said, “reveals the incredible complexity of daily travel patterns.” The next step, he shared, was to use the California Household Travel Survey (CHTS) data; specifically, one-day place-based travel diaries of 1,440 minutes periods, with each minute classified as home, work, school, other places, or travel.  


For USC Price Master of Urban Planning student Dan Lamere, in-depth explanations of research methodologies are the most enjoyable aspect of PSR research seminars. “The underlying methodology that researchers use to analyze travel behavior is always fascinating to learn about as a student studying transportation planning,” he noted, adding “research seminars are a very valuable supplement to college coursework.”   


An example of spatiotemporal patterns based upon person living in Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo Counties. 


Who is more likely to have complex daily patterns? Are men and women different in pattern complexity, and what role do children in the household play? 


Goulias’ research discovered that workers with children and women especially are more likely to have complex daily travel patterns, particularly in comparison to men. The presence of children in a household plays a role in overall household travel and in surprisingly different ways based on the age of the children. Young children inhibit complexity, while older children increase the complexity of travel patterns – to a point. That point coincides with ability to drive.  When children obtain a driver’s license, and then a car, things change dramatically as they become drivers themselves.  


USC Price School of Public Policy Ph.D. candidate, Sue Dexter, found the gender differences to be thought-provoking but not surprising. “My reflection is about the complexity factor of transportation needs and decisions that women have in abundance when it comes to juggling the mobility requirements of home, family, and work. Even when both partners work and share childcare responsibilities, women still have higher complexity. From personal experience, I can say this feels spot on! (And I had an involved spouse.) When my son was younger, it felt like I lived in the car going to/from work and volunteering, shuttling a kid to school/extracurricular activities, and doing household errands.” 


Visualizations showing the travel pattern complexity of couples with children. Women always have a higher complexity than men.  



Where do we find more complex patterns (city versus suburbs), and are these different across the days of a week? And does disability impact pattern complexity? 


Goulias learned that the most complex daily travel patterns occur in urban and suburban environments, possibly because of the market for autonomous vehicles and ride-hailing services. Interestingly, no day of the week shows similar travel patterns amongst people; each day of the week is distinctly different. Another variable, traveler disability, also impacts pattern complexity. The research showed that persons with disabilities had travel patterns with lower complexity and more often than not were homebound based on travel patterns. Finally, Goulias noted that, poverty understandably plays a significant role in inhibiting complexity in daily patterns, drastically limiting options without alleviating mobility needs. 


Goulias referenced the Household Responsibility Hypothesis, developed by Professor Deb Niemeier, Clark Distinguished Chair and Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering, at the University of Maryland, which posits that women take care of work, children, and household chores. According to Goulias, the hypothesis was clearly demonstrated in this research. Goulias’ research shows working women having the most fragmented schedules and dedicate substantial amounts of time in multiple activities and trips, causing time poverty, or having very little discretionary time in the day.  


Professor Goulias concluded his formal presentation with the following key findings: 


  • Home, work, and school are the three anchors in daily schedules and are still quite important.
  • There is a tremendous heterogeneity of travel behavior, but this behavior is classifiable with pattern recognition.
  • These patterns have a strong correlation with both traveler characteristics and the day of the week.
  • Interestingly, and perhaps quite a timely finding, home days are the most common travel day and do not preclude travel, but instead include numerous loop trips. Further, telecommuters do not stay home but rather appear in all travel patterns.


Attendee Alyssa Ryan, PhD candidate and transportation researcher at the University of Massachusetts Amherst studying transportation engineering safety, found the webinar valuable and intriguing. She particularly appreciated the generous time allocated for discussion with the audience, and noted she left with a reinforced conviction that “the design of transportation needs to account for these differing travel behaviors that are prominent for women in society, especially those with added disadvantages such as those with children.”  


Dexter also commented on the significance of Goulias’ findings. “This research can help shed light on transportation solutions for various groups of people based on stages of life, work, and gender.  [This is important in my view] because I strongly feel that planners cannot expect a one-size-fits-all solution to work for the majority.  There are just too many fractions - each with their own priorities.” 


The remarks of Dr. Hilary Nixon, Deputy Executive Director, Mineta Transportation Institute, San Jose State University sum up the event well.  “Kostas provided an in-depth and thoughtful presentation on different daily travel patterns. By using the sequence method, greater insight into travel behaviors was revealed. Gen skillfully moderated this webinar and the discussion probed how travel patterns vary based on gender, presence of children in the household, and also the unique differences based on geography and household location. I would definitely attend another webinar -- well worth my time.” 


Full video