Travel equals downtime for most commuters, says Indian Institute of Technology-Bombay study

Non-participation in any kind of multitasking activity drastically reduced when the individual owned a smartphone.

Published: 25th March 2018 09:13 AM  |   Last Updated: 25th March 2018 09:13 AM   |  A+A-

NEW DELHI: What do people do while commuting by public transport? While over 50 per cent do nothing, 16 per cent talk to fellow commuters, 10 per cent read, six per cent sleep and an equal number listen to music.These are the findings of a study by two Indian Institute of Technology (IIT)-Bombay researchers, conducted to find the impact of mobile devices on the way people travel and the economic impact of utilisation of travel time on the economy.

One of the key findings of the study was that a significant number of commuters, with or without smartphones, don’t engage in any activity at all.While the percentage was 51.6 per cent for people without smart phones, it was 29 per cent for those with the latest mobiles.

“Doing nothing was the most preferred travel time use by commuters in 40.5 per cent of the trips. This also included window-gazing and getting bored. Commuters reported snoozing or resting as the major multitasking activity in 7.9 per cent of the trips, whereas in 17.3 per cent they talked to other passengers,” said the paper titled 'Impact of information and communication technologies on multitasking during travel and the value of travel time savings: empirical evidences from Mumbai, India'.

“In 17.5 per cent of the trips, reading was reported to be the major multitasking activity with almost equal shares for both ICT- based and non-ICT (information and communication tehnology) based reading such as reading a newspaper or book etc,” added the survey published in Elsevier’s Travel Behaviour and Society.

In 4.6 per cent of the trips, the respondents used social media websites such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and WhatsApp or made phone calls.Meanwhile, in 7.9 per cent and 2.5 per cent of the trips, the traveller’s listened to music and playing games on their phones. Finally, it was observed that in 1.3 per cent of the total trips individuals worked during travel.

Non-participation in any kind of multitasking activity drastically reduced when the individual owned a smartphone. A similar trend was observed when they had high (more than one GB per month) internet usage.

“Through the study, we estimated how multitasking impacted value of travel time savings (VTTS),  which refers to the benefits of faster travel that saves time. The results showcased a reduction of 26 per cent when compared to individuals who did not perform any activity while travelling,” said Arnab Jana, co-author of the research by the Centre for Urban Science and Engineering.

He said the changes in VTTS indicate that people who multitask value their travel time savings less in comparison with people who don’t.“Transportation schemes for reducing overcrowding can take into account the added benefit due to multitasking while evaluating these policies. Policy-makers could tap the same phenomenon and drive the shift towards public transport modes,” added Jana.

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