The unusual suspects: The impact of non-transport technologies on social practices and travel demand

Hubers, C., Lyons, G. and Birtchnell, T. (2011) The unusual suspects: The impact of non-transport technologies on social practices and travel demand. In: Proceedings of the 43rd Universities Transport Study Group Conference, Milton Keynes, UK, 5th-7th January 2011. Available from:

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Despite cases in which travel is undertaken purely for its own sake, travel is usually considered to be derived from a need or desire to participate in a wide range of activities – accessing people, goods, services and opportunities. People’s schedules of activities in turn are derived from social practices (and the patterning of land use that affects where and when activities can take place). Travel demand, in part, is shaped directly and indirectly through the emergence of various kinds of technologies. Until now, discussion of emerging technologies in the transport literature has focussed on the impact of: (i) transport technologies (designed to assist traffic management and the movement of people through the transport system); and (ii) information and communication technologies (ICTs, that enable a substitution for or reorganisation of travel in time and space). This paper introduces a third type of technologies labelled ‘non-transport technologies’ reflecting technologies that shape social practices causing indirect impacts on travel demand. The invention of refrigeration, for example, enabled storing food for longer periods both in shops and in homes. This facilitated weekly rather than daily shopping and was allied to economies of scale for retailers in the form of out of town supermarkets. The paper briefly outlines the interpretation of travel demand within transport studies and then goes on to examine some selected examples of past, present and future non-transport technologies exposing the possible indirect influences they can have on travel demand. This exposes that travel demand is not so much derived as embedded within networks of objects and social practices. The paper concludes with discussion of how non-transport technologies may or may not be embraced in transport debates and the policy framework. In particular there is contemplation surrounding the question of how social practices, facilitated by non-transport technologies, might adapt in a setting where travel demand becomes more restricted.

Item Type:Conference or Workshop Item (Paper)
Uncontrolled Keywords:non-transport technologies, social practices, travel demand
ID Code:14151
Deposited By: J. Triggle
Deposited On:31 Mar 2011 10:40
Last Modified:04 Apr 2016 16:37

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