Comparing the two research methods

Both research methods show that commuters are highly satisfied with their present modes of mobility. Regardless of the mode, commuters prefer the same dimensions of satisfaction: flexibility, speed, reliability and the ease of use. What mostly seems to determine the mode of transport is the travel time difference between transport modes. This became quite evident, especially in the focus groups. Furthermore, if there are children in the family, and therefore more mobility needs, it is more likely that the family uses a private car to save time.

According to the survey and focus group results, the commuter cannot yet identify the usability and the benefit of the new emerging modes and services like MaaS. However, the focus group method revealed the latent needs of the participants that can be solved with MaaS and related concepts. Moreover, both methods showed that the most relevant unit of analysis is not an individual commuter but the family and household, which determines the prerequisites for the family members’ travel.

According to our survey, 51% of the commuters still use a car as the primary mode of transport. While owning and driving a car has a lower status than earlier, our focus groups revealed that car driving in commuting is motivated by enjoyment, particularly among middle-aged and older men. Furthermore, commuters would be willing to change to shared cars if the prices and service level were right for their needs. The propensity to increase the use of public transport is higher among car drivers in comparison with the whole sample. Public transport has a specific advantage of allowing other activities to be done during trips: reading, working or enjoying digital entertainment during the trip – however, contrary to our expectations, working during commuting is relatively uncommon activity.

Originally, we aimed to use focus groups as a tool for the design of survey questions, which is also the standard handbook recommendation. The findings of the focus groups suggested that the relevant topics could be tackled with highly detailed questions in the survey. This would have made the questionnaire too extensive and burdensome for the respondents, which necessitated some compromising with the research questions. Moreover, we concluded that it might be more practical to use both methods in parallel to investigate different but complementary issues of commuting.

According to our survey, only 15-25% of commuters could imagine of using the ‘new modes’ of commuting, i.e., car sharing, on-demand transport services, or bike sharing. In contrast, when the same questions were asked in the focus groups, most of the participants were favourable towards them. This highlights the fundamental differences between the two methods. When the questionnaire deals with unfamiliar and novel concepts, the respondents tend to skip the question or answer negatively rather than stop to think about the question thoroughly. The context is different in the focus group sessions; participants have more time and they can be guided to think the topic from their own perspective. In our focus groups, for instance, the participants first thought of their commuting patterns with a picture and text. This enabled them to imagine how the new concepts could be used in their own contexts. Moreover, if some service concepts were unclear, it was possible to have clarification and further information from the moderator.

We conclude that survey and focus group methods complement each other. Both methods reveal that there is a demand for MaaS and new innovative Maas-related services among the users. Furthermore, the methods show that the reasons why private cars are used in commuting are highly rational. In particular, commuting modes and the places of living are interdependent value-laden issues decided jointly within families. This interdependency also explains the high levels of satisfaction with their present modes of commuting.

The survey does not provide sufficiently in-depth knowledge that would help to understand user-specific mobility needs on individual and household levels. Focus group method is more appropriate in this sense. Such knowledge on user needs and motivations are of high importance for decision makers, e.g., municipal authorities, city planners, traffic planners, transport authorities and MaaS-related service providers, when planning the sustainable future mobility with MaaS and MaaS-related services.

Next: Behavioural change triggers

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