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Women in Bengaluru choose a workplace nearby and prefer to commute in own vehicles, finds IISc study

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Photo: Siddharth Kankaria/ Research Matters

Scientists at the Indian Institute of Science (IISc), Bengaluru, have conducted a study analyzing the influence of socio-demographic factors on the commuting habits of people in Bengaluru. The findings of the team, led by Prof. Ashish Verma from the Centre for Infrastructure, Sustainable Transportation and Urban Planning (CiSTUP), can be implemented in metropolitan cities to ease traffic congestion and pollution by opting for alternative and eco-friendly modes of transport.

The researchers obtained data regarding means of commute and socio-demographic factors  from Bangalore Metropolitan Regional Development Authority (BMRDA). The data was collected from 11,822 households, roughly representing about 2.1% of Bengaluru’s households, during 2009. Socio-demographic factors like age, gender, occupation, education, number of vehicles owned, type of vehicle owned (two wheeler or four wheeler), number  of breadwinners in a family and the type of residence, were gathered in the survey along with details about their commute behaviour like the mode of transport used, the frequency of commute, the distance travelled and the duration of travel.  The researchers then split the data into two parts - the first corresponding to those who owned at least one vehicle, and the second corresponding to those that did not own any.

To ascertain the impact of socio-demographic factors on the choice of mode of commute, a Multinomial Logistic Regression (MLR) model was used, which studies the dependence between multiple variables. In this study, the MLR technique was used to compare people’s chosen mode of commute with their socio-demographic data. The study compared six different modes of commute - car, bus, motorbike, auto rickshaw, cycling and walking, against socio-demographic factors like travel cost, household income, ratio of number of vehicles to number of breadwinners in the household, age, gender and the purpose of the trip.

The researchers observed interesting patterns in the commute behaviour of people - an increase in household income reduced the likelihood of a commuter to walk and cycle, the commute time for those who chose to walk or cycle to work was around ten times greater than those using bikes and buses, and people owning a vehicle had lesser inclination to opt for public transport or even walking or cycling. These results were verified with an earlier study conducted in Chennai and was found to be matching.

Other important findings of the study were that women had shorter commute distances than men, indicating that women chose to work closer to their homes. Due to short commute distance they use walk and cycle to work more often than men. They were are also more inclined to use private modes of transport like own vehicles or autos, for their comfort and safety, when compared to men. The study also observed that trips to schools were shorter than those to workplaces and found that there was not much socio-demographic differences between people owning a two wheeler  and those who did not own any vehicle.

Studies that explore commuter behaviour are significant for a developing country like India to  help mitigate the increasing traffic and to provide eco-friendly alternatives for commuters in packed cities and metropolitans. “The matrices of compact cities are found to have a differential effect on Non Motorised Transport mode (like walking and cycling) and the trip distance behavior across the group not-owning any vehicles (mainly low income households) versus the group that own vehicles. It is important to factor it while developing compact cities,” signs off Prof. Verma, emphasising the importance of such studies.