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A photo of Kevin Krizek of the U's Humphrey  Institute of Public Affairs.

Kevin Krizek is with the U's Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs.

Clicks vs. trips

Edited from an original story by Mary Lahr Schier in Humphrey Institute News, November 2003.

From eNews, January 8, 2004

At the dawn of the Internet age, futurists predicted that as telecommunications improved, we would travel less--working, shopping, and banking from home. Why, then, do traffic jams persist? A University of Minnesota professor is studying how our use of the Internet affects congestion and social behavior. Kevin Krizek, with the U's Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs, is collecting and analyzing data on household travel decisions in three cities--Seattle, Pittsburgh, and Kansas City--so that transportation planners can better understand how urban areas may change as technology becomes more pervasive. "At one point, we thought that e-commerce could replace a lot of physical travel and therefore we'd eliminate our congestion woes," Krizek says. "The emerging thought is that information technologies are not replacing household travel but are complementing it." In some cases, Krizek says, shopping online directly replaces certain trips. But the Internet and other technologies may be prompting more purchases and travel--both short trips to the local mall and longer trips for leisure travel. "The good deals people can get on airline tickets through the Web may well be instigating travel," he explains. In addition to influencing our travel behavior, Krizek says the availability of products through the Internet has affected the way a community socializes. Many bricks-and-mortar retailers have changed their approach to customers. Bookstores, for instance, have remade themselves as coffeehouses and neighborhood gathering spots as well as places to buy books. "Much of the social interaction we require is invaluable and cannot be adequately served electronically," he says. "For example, renting a movie is not a substitute for going to the theater because the two are not usually considered equivalent experiences." Krizek's research is part of a larger project, the Sustainable Technologies Applied Research Initiative, sponsored by the U's Center for Transportation Studies. To learn more about the initiative, see http://www.its.umn.edu/research/projects/2003012.html. For more on Krizek's findings, see http://www.hhh.umn.edu/news/newsletter/2003/nov03.pdf.