Winter Weather Demand Considerations
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Winter Weather Demand Considerations

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    Winter weather has varied effects on travel behavior. Using 418 survey responses from the Northern Virginia commuting area of Washington, D.C. and binary logic models, this study examines travel related changes under different types of winter weather and the factors influencing the likelihood of making a given change. In particular, the types of weather and related conditions include snow, freezing rain, heavy rain, below freezing temperatures, and icy roads. Two cases for these conditions are considered: beginning while the respondent is at work and while the respondent is at home. The travel related changes investigated include (1) cancelling trips, (2) delaying trips, (3) departing early, (4) adding trips, (5) changing destinations, (6) changing routes, (7) using more highways/freeways, and (8) changing modes of transportation. The statistically significant factors are different for the different decisions and weather conditions, emphasizing the complexity of predicting demand for winter weather. The models of the likelihood of changing transportation plans when snow begins at work and at home have some similar factors. For both models, travelers considering road conditions very important are more likely to make changes. The number of days on which errands are conducted decreases the likelihood of changing transportation plans. Aside from those two variables, the variables differ depending on where the respondent is when the snow begins. When the respondent is at work, larger households have higher likelihoods of changing plans. When the respondent is at home when the snow begins, variables related to leisure trips are significant. For the models of the likelihoods of changing transportation plans in freezing rain, the variables differ. The only variable for the model when the weather begins at work is an income category. The variables for the weather beginning at home are subjective evaluations of the importance of family, school, and employer considerations. For heavy rain, the age of the youngest child is significant in both models. Having an older youngest child makes the respondent less likely to change transportation plans. This is the only variable significant when the weather begins at home. When the weather begins at work, the influential variables suggest comfort with travel. Respondents conducting errands on weekdays and using highways/freeways normally are more likely to make changes. Both models for below freezing temperatures have the age of the youngest child as an influential variable. The other variables are related to work place policies. For the models relating to icy roads, concern for the road conditions is a significant factor. Respondents indicating that road conditions are very (starting at home) or very or somewhat important (starting at work) to their travel decisions are more likely to make changes. The other variables are related to children. For the types of changes respondents indicated they would make, the ranks were fairly consistent for winter weather beginning while the travelers are at work and when they are at home. The most common change is to cancel a trip/commute, followed by delaying a trip/commute, leaving early, and routing issues. The least common change is in mode of transportation. Among the variables significant to the models of cancelling a trip are workplace policies and child related variables. Workplace policies allowing flexibility increase the likelihood of canceling a trip, for weather beginning at both work and home. The child related variables decrease the likelihood of cancelling trips. Variables significant to the decision to delay a trip differ depending on where the respondent is when the winter weather begins. When the respondent is at work, the only variable is whether he/she normally makes stops on the way home. When the respondent is at home, work place policies and expectations, school decisions, and child care responsibilities are significant. Leaving work early for winter weather depends on workplace policies, household considerations and interactions, and normal trip chaining. All of the identified factors increase the likelihood of leaving early. Models of adding trips during winter weather have a wide variety of variables, including child considerations, race, normal travel decisions, and importance associated with employer decisions and road conditions. The model for changing destinations when winter weather starts at work includes leisure trip considerations and the importance of employer decisions. The statistically significant variables for the models of changing routes are different depending on where the respondent is when the winter weather begins. However, in both models, non-work trip frequency (leisure – starting at work; errands – starting at home) increases the likelihood of changing routes. Family importance encourages route changing when weather begins at work. For weather beginning at home, people who drive alone are more likely to change routes. The flexible work schedule option is significant to the model when weather begins at home. Variables statistically significant in the models of the decision to use more highways/freeways include non-work trip behavior, school decisions, and normal road type choices. These variables imply consideration of the locations of the non-work activities and general comfort with the highways. Other variables for the case when winter weather begins at home, are related to work decisions and workplace policies. The models of changing modes both include a variable indicating whether the respondent normally drives alone. This variable has a negative effect on the likelihood of changing modes. When the weather begins at home, the other variables are related to socio-demographic and economic characteristics and whether leisure trips are conducted.
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