Behavioral policy design for a car-dependent transport regime: shifting to sustainable alternatives

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Submission Summary
Our experiences in an urban setting are driven by the choices we make and the perception we have about the urban-scapes. Although classical economists believe that humans make decisions based upon optimization of time and money, it has been very recently pointed out that there are anomalies in behavior arising from irrationality. Behavioral economists have suggested that behavior (such as notions of fairness, trust, commitment, social norms, etc.) results in outcomes that do not always conform with traditional economics. Establishing a framework of planning within which changing human behavior and influencing the decisions that they make habitually, is a key to secure the future of sustainable cities that we envision today. This paper is an attempt to illustrate the immediate need of putting personal experiences and community needs with respect to mobility in the forefront by prioritizing their travel behavior models for city planning. Although behavioral sciences have been applied to fields such as economics, psychology, sociology, etc., the application of behavioral sciences have been negligible in city planning. Being the backbone of the economy, transport reflects the growth of the country. As the country develops, the need for transport infrastructure increases resulting in an unprecedented growth of vehicles. The one way to mitigate urban issues stemming from private vehicle dependency is to enhance public transport usage but it is a Herculean task. Adopting public transport is a new way of life for many and therefore, requires a ‘behavioral change’. The paper aims to present a deeper insight into how behavioral design when inculcated into traditional policy designs as ‘behavioral nudges’ help in reducing the level of car pride among residents, taking into consideration the learnings from global examples about factors that drive people towards car-pro attitude. Car is seen as one of the foremost desired “cultural goods” around the world and is seen to have beyond its instrumental functions of transport and mobility; it holds the symbolic meaning of pride – of social rank and up-gradation of the personal image by means of owning and using a vehicle. The utility-based behavioral modelling supported the functional value of the car has been the dominant framework. However, the deeper context of the symbolic relationship between people, cars and transit has largely being ignored – a relationship that offers rise to emotions that drive choices to car purchase and usage. Nudge planning has the potential to unobtrusively create a shift in the preferences of the people, and help achieve desired policy outcomes while ensuring that the needs and the experiences of the people are not compromised. This paper attempts to establish human-focused design as a driver for better transport policy outcomes by tapping onto the social values, past experiences and habits, and mental models. Lastly, the study outlines the application of behavioral sciences to facilitate a shift from a ‘car-dependent’ to a ‘sustainable’ transport regime, driven by gamified information systems and digital paradigms built for the people by using drivers that motivate the very same people. The most important thing this paper tries to illustrate is that behavioral policies cannot be replicated and must be modified according to social, cultural or other similar variations per se. The question here is how people collectively make decisions about travel choices since the key to the behavioral design is to make these community-driven decisions simple, easy yet effective. KEYWORDS – behavior, car pride, cognition, nudge, social values
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3: Smartness and development. Al-Souq: innovating for performance and management
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School of Planning and Architecture, Bhopal
Asst. Professor
School of Planning and Architecture, Bhopal

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