The Rational Locator Reexamined: Are Travel Times Still Stable?
Transportation, Vol. 32, pp. 187-202, 2005
37 Pages Posted: 5 Feb 2008
The Rational Locator Hypothesis posits that individuals can, if they choose, maintainapproximately steady journey-to-work travel times by adjusting their home and workplace. This hypothesis was coupled with the observation of long-term stability indrive alone journey-to-work times in metropolitan Washington (those times were unchanged from 1957 through 1968 to 1988). Despite the increase of averagecommuting distance and congestion, trip duration remained constant or even declined when controlling for travel purpose and travel mode because of shifting a share of traffic from slow urban routes to faster suburban routes. This observation has significance, as it is important to know for travel demand analysis if there is an underlying budget, or even a regularity, as this helps us determine whether our forecasts are reasonable. To retest the underlying rationale for the hypothesis: that travel times are stable, both intra-metropolitan and inter-metropolitan comparisons of travel times are made. The intra-metropolitan analysis compared Washington DC data from 1968, 1988, and 1994, and Twin Cities data from 1990 and 2000. The results depend upon geography. For the larger Washington DC region, keeping the same geography shows little change in commute times, but using the larger 1994 area suggests an increase in commute times.However, the Twin Cities, starting from a much shorter commute time, shows a marked increase over the decade, using either the smaller or the larger geography. To explain the differences between the two areas, an inter-metropolitan analysis conducts a series of regressions on mean metropolitan travel time for the 65 largest metropolitan areas in theUnited States. The average commute time varies (positively) in these cities as a function of congestion and population density-both significant at the 99% confidence interval.Geographical area, population, and income were also significant at the 90% confidence interval. Despite the continuing observation of stability in drive alone commuting timesin metropolitan Washington, we reject the theory of personal commuting budgets, as we find that not only are commuting times not generally stable over time at the intra-metropolitan area, but that commuting time clearly depends on metropolitan spatial structure.
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation