Empowering Individuals to Make Environmentally Sustainable and Healthy Transportation Choices in Mega-Cities through a Smartphone App

A paradox of industrialized society is the overreliance on unsustainable fossil fuel energy for transportation and insufficient use of sustainable bodily energy for more physically active modes of transport. Preference for sedentary travel mode such as car driving over physically active travel modes such as walking, biking and public transit which often involves walking has contributed to air pollution and the epidemic of obesity. Further, the public has a knowledge perception bias for energy consumption and efficiency that tend to underestimates carbon emission of day-to-day activities. The project hypothesizes that insufficient and inaccurate knowledge of energy use and bodily energy expenditure can be barriers for adopting more physically active and environmentally sustainable travel modes. The project proposes to conduct a randomized, controlled trial to assess impacts of a behavioral nudge, e.g., a new smartphone app, tentatively named iTransit, on the perception of commute-related energy use and expenditure. The existing smartphone app developed at Hunter College has the ability to detect travel modes using global positioning system (GPS) tracking on a remote geographic information system (GIS) server. It will be expanded to have the ability to report carbon avoidance and calories burned associated with each trip segment and travel mode. Participants of the Queens College Ultimate Transportation Evaluation (QCUTE) surveys (2008-2012) will be randomly allocated to one of three groups (n=3x50): iTransit and car pool parking discount; iTransit only; and control. Knowledge about energy use and expenditure will be measured at baseline and endline. Intention of behavioral changes will be measured through a questionnaire. There will be about 28 public transit users, 20 drivers and 1 or 2 walkers or cyclists in each group, as per our previous QCUTE surveys. A subset of participants will be interviewed to probe further the decision making process of travel modes. The field testing of the iTransit at Queens College can pave the way for its wide application in regional travel surveys, the addressing of privacy concerns, and the solving of any technical difficulties. If improved knowledge of energy consumption and bodily energy expenditure is found to trigger intent to act, such an intervention approach is perhaps best understood as a preventive medicine to reduce the tendency to switch from public transit to car driving.


  • English


  • Status: Completed
  • Funding: $97501.00
  • Contract Numbers:


  • Sponsor Organizations:

    Department of Transportation

    Research and Special Programs Administration
    1200 New Jersey Avenue, SE
    Washington, DC    20590
  • Project Managers:

    Mooney, Deborah

  • Performing Organizations:

    City College of the City University of New York

    30 West Broadway, 11th Floor
    New York, NY  United States  10007
  • Principal Investigators:

    Morabia, Alfredo

    Zheng, Yan

    Gong, Hongmian

  • Start Date: 20121001
  • Expected Completion Date: 0
  • Actual Completion Date: 20150331
  • Source Data: RiP Project 32941

Subject/Index Terms

Filing Info

  • Accession Number: 01537271
  • Record Type: Research project
  • Source Agency: University Transportation Research Center
  • Contract Numbers: 49997-36-24
  • Files: UTC, RIP
  • Created Date: Sep 10 2014 1:00AM