Modality, Activity Participation and Well-being: Evidence from Commuters in Beijing

Z. Mao

Research output: ThesisDoctoral thesis 1 (Research UU / Graduation UU)


In the recent decades, daily mobility and mode choice in Chinese cities have developed in the presence of fundamental transformations in the built environment and soaring car ownership. Encouraging sustainable travel become a goal for planners and also transport policy makers in China. In this research, empirical analyses are carried out to understand the share and determinants of individuals’ modality styles in Beijing, and to explore how their modality styles affect activity participation, social interaction, travel time and well-being.
Our study finds that not only the share of the modality styles but also the determinants and the interpretation of determinant values can vary across different contexts at different developing stages. Car ownership does not necessarily lead to car dependency but rather provides an extra choice and increases multimodality at the current stage. The interpretation of this result can be closely associated with both the geographical and institutional background in Beijing. As for the influence of modality styles, this research shows that to a certain extent, the functionality of car use can be substituted by the use of multiple travel modes in the research context of Chinese cities. At the weekly level, multimodal travelers benefit from more participation in non-work activities, while car users do not show much advantage. However, this influence may differ when the commuters have different activity agendas between commute and non-commute days and differ between the companionship of different social contacts. Our findings reveal that a conclusion regarding the facilitating/impeding effect of car on activity participation cannot generally be achieved without considering the context for observations, including geographic context, social-cultural settings, and also the observed time period.
In addition to the participation in travel/activities, this study also investigates individuals’ experience of their daily travel and activities in the context of Chinese cities. Consistent with previous studies in Western contexts, it is found that active commuters always have the highest levels of travel satisfaction, and activities at leisure/recreational facilities are generally more satisfying than other non-work activities. This research extends the current literature of trip/activity satisfaction, by including the context of travel choices as an explanatory factor. Specifically, trip satisfaction is not only affected by travel modes but also individual’ experiences with other modes (due to multimodality) and their freedom in decision making (with different modal flexibility levels). For activity satisfaction, it is not only related to the objectively observed activity attributes but also the factors related to the freedom in choosing the timing and location for these activities (temporal and spatial flexibility).
The research also delivers some implications for transport policies. Generally, the results support the recognition that spatial attributes can influence travel behavior significantly. Decision-makers and planners, when aiming to influence or change individuals’ mode choice through the planning of built environments, need to comprehensively consider the entire city and efforts should be made to improve facilities located in both residential and workplace areas. Moreover, this research reveals the importance of providing and combining different travel modes in urban life for both car and non-car users.
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Utrecht University
  • Dijst, M.J., Primary supervisor
  • Ettema, Dick, Supervisor
Award date23 Mar 2018
Print ISBNs978-94-028-0978-7
Publication statusPublished - 23 Mar 2018


  • Modality
  • activity participation
  • well-being
  • commuter
  • Beijing


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