Focus groups

At the beginning of the project, we realised that there is abundant statistical data available on commuting behaviour and its determinants. However, the existing data on the potential of MaaS in commuting is still limited. To fill this gap, we collected new kind of commuting data using a focus group method along with the survey on commuting behaviour in Finland. In addition, we wanted to know what kinds of information and conclusions can be obtained from these two complementary data collection methods. The results are discussed in more detail in ICoMaaS 2017 conference paper.

Focus group is a form of qualitative research data collection method consisting of interviews and discussion in an interactive group setting. Usually from 6 to 10 people are asked about their opinions, beliefs, and attitudes towards a selection of topics. We arranged six focus groups in Autumn 2016: two in October in Hyvinkää in the Growth Corridor Finland (a region between the capital area and Tampere region) and four in Turku in November in the southern growth corridor (the region along the southern coast from Turku to capital area and Hamina city). In all of these six focus groups, the participants had a higher education level than the population on average. Participants also had more children and larger family sizes than average Finnish population or those answering the survey discussed before.

Each focus group session was divided into two sections. In the first section, we gathered information about the present daily commuting habits of participants. Participants were asked to illustrate and draw a simplified picture of his/her typical daily commuting behaviour. The reason for using a drawing was to make people feel more relaxed when describing their commuting. It was also easier to discuss and share own contributions with others when the picture could be used as a framework for explanation. To support the participants in this task, a simple illustrative model picture was shown to the participants. The participants’ pictures were supposed to show 1) the modes of transport, 2) the distance, 3) time taken by the commuting mode, and also to illustrate 4) what other activities (e.g., shopping, dropping kids to school, social activities) were combined with commuting. After completing the picture, participants presented their daily commuting patterns to others and told why they had chosen the transport alternatives they were using.

The second section started with a short video that explained the Mobility-as-a-Service (MaaS) concept to the participants. After the video, participants drew and wrote in their pictures the possible changes that MaaS could have in their commuting patterns. The participants were encouraged to discuss different alternatives. During the second section, we also applied a threshold method (the figure below). We asked what kind of services participants would like to have in the future that could change their mobility patterns. To stimulate their thinking, we suggested several different new services and ideas, e.g., car sharing services, ride sharing, grocery home delivery and using electric bikes. The purpose was to find out what kinds of services would be the ‘threshold services’ that would make them change their commuting patterns. Of special interest were the kinds of solutions that would be needed to make the change from using private cars in commuting to for more sustainable alternatives.

Threshold method used for inquiring what would change a commuter’s mobility patterns.

We recorded each focus group session and collected the participants’ drawings. In the last stage, we analysed and summarised the findings, and found out that the recorded explanations revealed especially the motivational aspects affecting individuals’ choice of transport mode in commuting.

Next: Insights from focus groups

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