International symposium on travel time use, value and experience, Centre for Transport and Society, UWE

On the 15th of June, the Centre for Transport and Society Research at UWE hosted the first multi-disciplinary international symposium on travel time use, value and experience.

Over the last decade transport research has started to explore the ‘positive utility of travel time’, which has included new research methods for understanding how travel time is used. Simultaneously, the ‘passenger experience’ has emerged as a key theme in the social sciences’ ‘mobilities research’, developing theory around issues such as comfort and waiting.

The aim of the symposium was to present different disciplinary interpretations of travel time. It explored the tentative relationships between theories of travel time, the passenger experience, transport policy and economics, with the aim that through presentations and discussion we could explore opportunities for research synergy and consider how different approaches could inform and develop policy.

As a first year PhD student I’d submitted my abstract, without really believing it would have a strong chance of getting accepted. So it was something of a surprise to find a few weeks later I had been included in the line up. The diverse programme contained several ‘movers and shakers’ in the emerging area of travel time use, and it was a privilege to present some of my early stage findings alongside them. For me a highlight of the day was a fascinating presentation by Sarah Norgate (Uni of Salford) and Chris Speed (Edinburgh College of Art) entitled – If St. Augustine had had an i-phone: Multi-disciplinary Perspectives on Antecedents of Travel Time Use which constructed a narrative to reveal the stresses that contemporary networked communications are placing upon existing models of time. A second useful presentation (for me) was made by Tim Schwanen (University of Oxford) on Mobility and independence in later life and whose findings presented many similarities and thinking points with regards to my own.

In addition I think it was an invaluable opportunity for all in attendance to (re) consider the issue of travel time use from a multi-disciplinary perspective. It did get me thinking however that perhaps the greatest divides between us were related to questions of ontology rather than neccessarily being related to discipline. All in all it was a useful, inspiring and enjoyable day.  Looking forward to the next travel time conference in 2013 in New Zealand!

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