How do we go to work?
Short description
Nearly 1,500 employees were interviewed in a survey about their travel-to-work habits. Their answers show that the first priority is the time it takes for getting to one’s workplace. Is the car the best choice in this respect? Probably not – but the majority are convinced it is.

Urban Innovative Actions is the “international summary title” of a representative questionnaire survey carried out last summer as part of the SASMob Project. A total of some 1,500 workers of seven employers answered questions regarding their travel-to-work habits and shared their opinions about mobility.

The questionnaire survey, whose performance was coordinated by the Regional Environmental Centre, also identified the location of the headquarters of interviewees’ workplaces. Headcount and staff composition, working hours and infrastructure related aspects were also examined. In large organisations, questionnaires were also filled in online, while in small ones researchers tried to make as many personal interviews as possible. The results of the survey have since been evaluated and used by employers to prepare mobility plans, whose core element is the set of mobility measures worked out based on the questionnaire results.

Conclusions, interesting and unexpected results

Choosing a certain means of transport is by far driven by the temporal length of the trip; for intellectual workers, this is almost the only and exclusive consideration. To them, cost hardly plays any role in choosing the means of transport. The top  aspects on manual workers’ priority list are travel time, the price of the given means of transport and if they have any other choice like having a car of their own.
In most cases, travelling time was relatively short, rarely more than 20-30 minutes even during peak periods – and, in most cases, transport is within the city. By contrast, it takes at least half an hour for every second employee commuting from other towns to get to their workplace. This also contains a transfer in many cases: one first gets to the city but has to then take another vehicle to reach their destination.
The location of the workplace also fundamentally influences the choice of transport means. The use of sustainable means of travelling (public transport, cycling, walking) reaches 80% in the case of the best-located city-centre workplace. However, the use of passenger cars is very common if the workplace is in the outskirts: 70% go to work there by car.
One of the survey questions was about the ‘ideal way’ of commuting; the means of transport employees would choose if circumstances did not matter. Most would change to bike but relatively few would give up driving their own car for using public transport – especially among commuters.

What made it so important to carry out this survey?

One of the key objectives of the project is to reduce the proportion of employees, who drive to work alone – of all the employers covered by the survey. There is still a long way to go:  the questionnaires showed that 80% of those who go to work by car travel alone. These people are especially reluctant to give up car use; the vast majority of manual workers are single travellers who refuse to change from the car to any other means of transport. The two reasons why are a) the need for the car before/after work (to get their children to school or to do the shopping) and b) speed (faster than public or community transport).
Cost, however, turned out to be less important, even though, according to the survey findings, car owners spend an average of 15% of their salary on fuel.

Where Community Transport Takes It All 

The survey answers confirmed researchers’ forecasts in that public transport has the strongest attraction in the city centre area and tends to be decreasingly attractive as we go farther to the outskirts. The main reason is that in most cases one has to transfer on the way to work, especially if one commutes from another town. Besides the length of travelling, the other difficulty is family logistics; the children must be taken to kindergarten or school and shopping rounds also have to be organised.
Within the city of Szeged, the use of public transport is the highest in the districts of Rókus, Felsőváros, Tarján and Makkosháza. Practically every other person uses public transport in these parts of the city. Another interesting result was that the use of public transport by manual workers commuting from nearby towns is surprisingly high:

  • Kiskundorozsma: 50%
  • Algyő: 55%
  • Röszke: 70%
  • Sándorfalva: 75%
  • Hódmezővásárhely: 85%.

Points to bear in mind 

The survey findings also pointed out that the use of public transport largely depends on one’s financial situation. In all cases, a significantly higher percentage of manual workers use public transport than white collar ones. It was also found that many would change to using a car as soon as they could afford it.
The survey also confirmed that winning people for public transport or at least slowing down passenger loss rate in it is a major challenge. In all companies covered, interviewees appreciated bicycle use related facilities, namely:

  • a closed/roofed bike shelter
  • bike path construction and  
  • showers

However, the surveys also made it clear that the ratio of bicycle users is to the highest extent determined by the actual location of the workplace. It must still be noted, though, that the percentage of bicycle users is fairly high at all the employers, even by international standards.