Date of Award
Master of Science (MS)
Civil and Environmental Engineering
Travel behavior and the factors which drive it in small and rural communities has been historically understudied in transportation research. By understanding these factors and behaviors, a clearer picture of these regions can be drawn so that meaningful change towards greenhouse gas reductions can be realized. My research aims to examine barriers to making sustainable travel behavior changes such as using multi-modal transportation, reducing overall amounts of travel, or moving to locations closer to necessary services. I do this by first evaluating what “rural” means in terms of existing definitions of the term. The assessment of rural definitions analyzes vehicle miles traveled (VMT) calculated from statewide inspection and registration data under multiple definitions of urban and rural. Large discrepancies were found to occur in VMT depending on the definition used, and common presuppositions, such as rural areas being those that experience the highest VMT, are directly questioned. The results presented here suggest that multiple ways of defining rurality can conclude differing results, and that what we think to be true about rural areas’ travel behavior is directly tied to which definition of rural is used. I then analyze interviews conducted with Vermonters to get first-hand accounts of what types of change people think are possible as well as the barriers to achieving this change. The interviews employed questions on day-to-day challenges of traveling, suggestions for reducing greenhouse gas emissions in their communities, responses to fuel prices, and opinions on electric vehicles. These two components of my research highlight that rural travel behavior stereotypes may not accurately reflect reality and that while there are barriers, opportunities exist to bring about greenhouse gas emissions reductions from transportation in small and rural communities. Finally, a revealed and stated preference survey was deployed statewide to assess how individuals have responded to increasing fuel prices between February and April 2022. This survey indicates that Vermonters are taking notice of increasing fuel prices and have begun to shift their behavior in response. While shifts are minimal currently, this presents an opportunity to further the stages of change and move towards meaningful emissions reductions through behavioral changes.
Number of Pages
Quallen, Erica, "Travel Behavior, Responses To Fuel Prices, And Barriers To Change In Small And Rural Communities" (2022). Graduate College Dissertations and Theses. 1568.
Available for download on Saturday, April 29, 2023