The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Driving seems irrational when there are alternatives. Here are a few ideas.

In this file photo,  traffic crawls on the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway (I-278), July 1, 2016, in New York City.  (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)
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People drive to work mostly because they see it as the most comfortable way to go.

But driving also causes plenty of aggravation, with more than half of those who commute by car reporting that they encounter delays at least once a week that make them late for work — not to mention the hassle of parking.

So why drive? And how do you get people to change?

That’s the question posed in a new survey by Conduent, a business services provider based in New Jersey.

“It’s clear that people’s choice isn’t necessarily rational,” the survey says. But it also suggests ways that urban planners can nudge people toward making different choices about how they get around.

Of the respondents in North America who have cars, nearly half used the word “frustrated” (27 percent) or “stressed” (21 percent) when describing what it’s like to travel in or around their cities.

Although the global survey is small in terms of its number of respondents, the findings ring true in the District, where commuters have been forced to adapt during Metro’s year-long emergency overhaul. What the survey found is that people would be much more likely to trade in their car for public transportation if the bus or train were to get where it’s going faster and with better reliability. Seventy percent of respondents said they would be more likely to use mass transit if it were faster; 83 percent said reliability matters.

Survey says D.C. is worst city for drivers – which is no surprise to anyone who lives here

The study recommends finding ways to do more with smartphone apps, such as using them to provide commuters with more up-to-date information on their rides or pay their fares. In noting that many people say they feel it is necessary to drive when they go shopping, the study says merchants and planners who want to ease traffic in city centers and encourage people to use mass transit might offer special promotional sales on ticketing apps or offer free shipping or delivery to customers who show a transit ticket. It also recommends finding better ways to stitch together existing modes of transportation as an alternative to building new infrastructure, and to blend private and public, the way Denver has used ride-hailing services to help people in neighborhoods where bus service is sparse.

The survey reached more than 2,300 people in 23 cities, including New York, Washington and Los Angeles, to query them about their habits and attitudes when it comes to urban travel.

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