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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. We hypothesize 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.

We propose 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 GPS tracking on a remote 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. While traditional transportation studies emphasize on solving traffic congestion problems, our outside the box approach will gain insight on how knowledge and psychological