What’s the Link Between Consumer Behavior and Travel Mode?

The conventional thinking for retail businesses such as convenience stores, restaurants, bars, and supermarkets is that customers will be traveling to the establishment by way of private automobile.  Unfortunately, this has also led to business owners fearing that they would lose business without adequate space for automobiles.

Recently, Professor Kelly Clifton, Christopher Muhs, Sara Morrissey, Tomas Morrissey, Kristina Currans, and Cloe Ritter of the Oregon Transportation Research and Education Consortium have published a study that examines the consumer preferences of pedestrians, bicyclists, transit users, and motorists to determine whether the mode of transportation significantly affects consumer behavior, particularly the frequency of visiting businesses and the amount spent during each visit.

Two charts compare the frequency of visits and amount of spending per transportation mode. (Courtesy Oregon Transportation Research)

Two charts compare the frequency of visits and amount of spending per transportation mode. (Courtesy Oregon Transportation Research)

The study used intercept surveys to ask restaurant, bar, convenience store, and supermarket patrons about their mode of transportation, how often they visit the establishment, and how much they spend on average.  The results showed that there are clear distinctions in the frequency of visits and the average amounts spent per trip, dependent on the customer’s mode of access.

There are two key findings from this study.  First, at restaurants, bars, and convenience stores, non-motorists (pedestrians, bicyclists, and transit riders) are competitive consumers, meaning that mode choice does not significantly impact consumer spending at convenience stores.  Further, over the course of a month, non-motorists actually spend more on average than motorists at convenience stores, bars, and restaurants.

A bike corral outside Reading Terminal Market.

A bike corral outside Reading Terminal Market.

Second, the built environment, including factors such as density, proximity to transit, and bicycling infrastructure, explain the use of non-automobile modes.  In particular, bike corrals and bike racks are significant predictors of bike use at nearby business establishments.

This research is important for Philadelphia in that it helps illustrate the link between mode choice and consumer spending.  Moreover, it empirically shows that removing a parking space for bicycle racks or pedestrian facilities will not adversely affect business at an establishment.  As Philadelphia continues to grow and redesign the streets for all modes of transportation it will be necessary to incorporate non-automobile infrastructure as an approach to encourage equitable transportation and activity in all neighborhoods.

Read the Full Report:

Consumer Behavior and Travel Mode Choices

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