Does conducting activities while traveling reduce the value of time? Evidence from a within-subjects choice experiment

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Many studies about conducting activities while traveling start from the hypothesis that conducting onboard activities reduces the value of time (VoT). However, surprisingly limited empirical evidence is provided for this hypothesis. The few studies that aim at providing this evidence face methodological problems in the sense that effects attributed to conducting onboard activities are confounded with differences between groups. This paper further develops and applies a solution for this problem proposed by Wardman and Lyons (2016). In essence, this method includes constructing a within-person choice experiment, which involves that the same respondents make choices in a context that enables conducting activities, as well as in a context that does not enable conducting activities. This method is applied in a study that collected data from 820 train travelers in the Netherlands. The results show that as expected, the VoT in the activity context is significantly lower than the VoT in the non-activity context, which thus supports the hypothesis. Reduction in VoT due to conducting onboard activities is around 30% for commuters, while leisure travelers who prefer to read lose almost half their VoT value. In addition, this paper discusses how the estimated VoT reduction values can be interpreted as the Value of Activity (VoA), which can be used for appraising investments aimed at reducing the disutility of travel other than by means of reducing travel time, such as improving Internet connections.