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Attitudes to Private and Public Transport: psyco-social and structural factors

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Complete with results
Geo-spatial type
Project website
STRIA Roadmaps
Smart mobility and services (SMO)
Transport mode
Multimodal icon
Transport policies
Societal/Economic issues
Transport sectors
Passenger transport,
Freight transport


Background & Policy context

The valuation of the practical features associated with each transport mode has an influence on traveller choice and use. However, stereotypes associated with public and private transport as well as the association of the car with positive emotions can partly explain the resistance to using public transport.

There is a need to further research the structural and psycho-social factors involved in the use of public and private transport and the attitudes of users.


The main aim of the project was to analyse the psycho-social factors that influence attitudes in choosing to use public and private transport. It focuses on the emotional and symbolic aspects associated with public and private transport.


The methodological approach studied the following key variables:

1. Structural variables: framework where mobility behaviour is developed. In particular, the kinds of structural variables which can play a significative role are studied, a classification of them is made and their relative importance is quantified considering other psycho-social variables.

2. Psychological variables related to aspects of practical or instrumental nature of the transport mode. The project analysed the most important instrumental elements for the people when they choose a transport mode, as well as their perception of the car and public transport according to each attribute.

3. Psychological variables related to symbolic and emotional aspects linked to public and private transport. The possible relation to the "social status associated to the car" is researched, with several patterns of social stereotypes associated to the use of transport means. Those socio-affective and symbolic aspects linked to public transport are also identified and analysed in order to be able to plan marketing strategies to attract a greater number of users to public transport modes.

4. Change strategies applicable to transport policies. The findings of this research will be extended to possible specific measures. To do this, the most significative elements involved in the choice of a transport mode (socio-expressive, affective and instrumental) will be related to the acceptance or rejection by the individuals of public political measures such as incentive and restriction within a transport framework. In the last phase of this research, and taking into account the results obtained in the former phases, an experiment was designed to prove the efficiency of influence tactics applicable in persuasion campaigns aimed at promoting public transport use in a specific sector of the population.

5. Scope of the research.  One of the phases of this project studied the influence in the mobility guidelines and in the choice of the transport mode, the place of residence (city centre or suburban). It also compared the incidence of the place of residence in two types of different cities taking into account the number of inhabitants (Madrid, Bilbao and San Sebastian), but with similar characteristics about the dispersion in the urban area.


Parent Programmes
Institution Type
Public institution
Institution Name
CEDEX (Centro de Estudios y Experimentación de Obras Públicas)1; part of the Ministry of Public Works and Infrastructures
Type of funding
Public (national/regional/local)


An assessment of the influencing factors in choosing one transport mode over another, highlights the important instrumental function of such factors. Qualitative analysis from 6 focus groups (7-8 participants) conducted in Madrid, Bilbao, and San Sebastian showed that the symbolic function and affect associated with modes of transport are – together with the instrumental function – relevant for choosing a specific transport mode.

In fact, references to feelings and emotions regarding public transport obtained high frequencies. Assessment of differences between public and private transport, in relation to instrumental and symbolic functions, and associated affects, suggests that public transport is considered poor in terms of its instrumental function, and negatively with respect to its symbolic function.

However, both the instrumental and symbolic functions of private transport are valued positively. Finally, affective reactions to private transport are more ambivalent than to public transport, which are negative.


Lead Organisation
EU Contribution
Partner Organisations
EU Contribution


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