WIT Press

Exploring How A Travel Script Can Inform Commuting Decisions


Free (open access)





Page Range

639 - 650




508 kb

Paper DOI



WIT Press


E. Mbabazi, G. Walker, C. J. Brown


With road transport contributing about one-fifth of the European Union’s total carbon dioxide emissions, a complementary approach of both hard and soft interventions is necessary to reduce this. In the past, economic rationality assumptions regarding decision making have dominated transport policy. More recently, there has been a growing recognition that individuals’ negotiation of the social world influences decision making. This qualitative study, therefore, uses the concept of a travel script to explore how agency is exercised within a given structure in making commuting decisions. A travel script can be conceptualized as a mental representation of the individual’s knowledgeability of the structures within which they live, and which constrain or afford certain behaviours. The engagement of a travel script may produce different outcomes owing to the saliency of different factors in different situations. The paper firstly discusses transportation policy in the UK from the 1960s to the present highlighting its underpinnings in economic rationality. Using commuting history narratives of 82 employees in Edinburgh, cohorts based on attaining driving age in the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s are then compared. The data suggests that the 1970s cohort delayed the start of regular car use for commuting compared to the 1980s and 1990s cohorts. More respondents from the 1970s cohort also underwent a period where they broke from regular car use for commuting than the other two cohorts. Key events are identified from the narratives and the travel knowledgeability surrounding these events is identified using content analysis. Analysis of the relationships among these factors is undertaken to identify aspects of the travel script that are made salient, affecting the exercising of agency in the decision making process.


travel script, key events, travel knowledgeability, judgement of effort