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Center Identification Number:  527-08


Project Title:  Assessing the Hierarchy of Needs in Levels of Service


Principal Investigators:                     


Jennifer Perone
Phone (813) 974-9861


Phil Winters
Phone (813) 974-9811




Center for Urban Transportation Research
University of South Florida
Tampa, Florida


External Project Contact:                   


Martin Guttenplan



I.  Project Objective


The main objective of this project is to assess if there is a hierarchy of transportation needs akin to the ‘Hierarchy of Needs’ described by Abraham Maslow.  This project also seeks to operationalize Maslow’s hierarchy of needs as measurable variables and also to investigate other motivational theories such as Alderfer’s Existence, Relatedness, and Growth Theory in the context of assessing and meeting level of service transportation needs.


II.  Project Abstract


In conducting transportation research, typically the transportation planning industry relies on mode choice models that in turn rely heavily on time-and-cost variations for trips, as well as standard demographic characterizations of system users.  Research indicates that psychological factors not captured in this modeling process may play a crucial role in mode choice determination.  These factors are captured in the often-cited ‘Hierarchy of Needs’ described by Abraham Maslow (1968).  Maslow’s theory is based upon two groupings:  deficiency and growth needs.  Within the deficiency needs, each lower need must be met prior to moving on to the next level.  An individual is only ready to continue on to the growth part of the hierarchy once deficiency needs have been met.  The hierarchy is as follows:  1) physical survival needs; 2) need for safety and security; 3) social needs- feelings of belongingness in a group; 4) need for self-esteem; and 5) need for self-actualization.  Alderfer’s  (1972) ERG theory is much like Maslow’s theory except it only has three groupings, Existence, which would encompass steps 1 through 3 of Maslow’s hierarchy; Relatedness, which would encompass steps 3 and 4; and Growth, which would include step 5, self-actualization.  The main problem with Maslow’s theory is that it has not been empirically tested or operationalized, whereas Alderfer’s theory has been tested and operationalized.  In addition, Alderfer’s theory specifies that there may not be an exact threshold order such as that specified by Maslow, but that all lower needs must be met prior to the individual being able to experience growth and self-actualization.


This project would first attempt to develop variables, which would tie transportation needs into the needs described in the motivational literature.  In the proposed transportation hierarchy, step 1 is replaced with safety and security while using transportation; step 2 is replaced by time or trip efficiency, in vehicle time, waiting time, etc.; step 3 is replaced by societal acceptance of transportation mode, personal and peer/society acceptance of certain modes; step 4 is replaced by cost of each type of transportation mode; step 5 is replaced by comfort and convenience, the highest self-actualization for transportation modes, this describes a better travel experience, comfort, reliability, easy access, environmental awareness, fitness goals, or pride in the transportation mode. 


III.  Task Descriptions


Task 1:  Literature Review


This task would review the literature in four areas:


1)  An in-depth exploration of the motivation literature with a focus on Maslow’s and Alderfer’s theories of needs and how it relates to transportation mode choice.

2)  Identification of the elements affecting mode choice and user satisfaction with transportation options.

3)  Techniques to measure user perception of those elements.

4)  Identification of any threshold levels that have been observed.

5)  The effect of all of the above on mode choice and overall levels of satisfaction.


Many of the above-listed areas have been explored in depth, so in many cases summary sources may be referenced so as not to spend inordinate amounts of time reviewing the intricacies of variations in time and cost models.  However, the motivation theories, as they relate to transportation needs have not been tested adequately and an exploration of these theories are needed if we are to understand the exact nature of motivations affecting mode choice based upon motivational models.  Many of the motivational, psychological issues affecting mode choice are documented in the original report on Assessing Levels of Service Across Modes.


Task 2:  Research to Identify Key Indicators


Using Methods Identified from the literature review, this task would use qualitative and quantitative research techniques to identify the relative importance of each of the indicators for each of the modes and levels.  Given the potentially wide range of indicators to be considered and discussed for each level, it is proposed for consideration (prior to having conducted the literature review) a dynamic method of collecting qualitative feedback to guide the development of the sample plan (i.e., what needs to be measured).  Under the recommended dynamic method, participants use hand-held keypad (similar to a television remote) to submit their responses to questions posed by the moderator.  These terminals transmit individual responses back to a computer that tabulates the data, and then displays a summary of the results for audience and/or moderator to review.  Similar to traditional focus group methods, the moderator leads the group through the focus questions but may rely on the responses to determine where to probe deeper.  This “dynamic” focus group approach differs from the “typical” focus group in three ways:  fostering participation, directing the discussion, and capturing results.


Task 3:  Data Collection


The sampling plan (include method, sample size, etc.)  for each of the modes (auto, transit, bike, and walk) will depend on the indicators identified in Task 2.  While existing LOS can be one factor to consider for stratifying the sample, it shouldn’t be the only criterion.  The data collection plan will focus on approaches that the advisory committee for the previous CUTR research project, Assessing LOS Equally Across Modes, most often refers to as “Drive for Science”, “Ride Transit for Science”, etc.  It should be acknowledged that some of the needs (e.g., cost and comfort and convenience) are not represented in the Bicycle and Pedestrian LOS so the data collection effort should include those modes as well.  In addition, those who bike and walk may be doing so for fitness or for environmental reasons, so the comfort and convenience level should also include characteristics such as environmental consciousness and fitness goals.


There are two approaches for data collection in this project:


1)  Use a single pool of participants to participate in all four (auto, transit, bike, and walk) data collection exercises.

2)  Use a simulator or simulation exercises to replicate conditions that may be difficult to find in the field.


Task 4:  Data Analysis


The data will be analyzed to determine if user opinions show the existence of threshold levels (a hierarchy) in various elements that need to be reached and how those threshold levels relate to thresholds for other variables.  The dependent variables in these models would be overall user ratings of level-of-service for each mode.  It is conceivable that a simple linear combination of variables will do equally well in explaining respondent perceptions and use patterns, and that there is no need for a threshold-based model.  Another option is based upon Alderfer’s ERG theory.  Alderfer posits that the hierarchies are not mutually exclusive and that people may need for more than one need to be fulfilled at the same time, but that these needs must be fulfilled in order to experience growth and self-actualization. 


The results will also be used to understand the interrelationships between assessments of level of service across different modes.


Task 5:  Final Report Write-Up


This task would generate the models and adjustment factors between levels of service for each type of transportation mode.


Related Research: CUTR developed this idea in conducting the project “Assessing Level-of-Service Across Modes.”  Though Maslow’s theory pervades the literature on employee motivation, a TRIS search did not reveal any transportation research related to a hierarchy of needs for transportation.  However, time and cost based methods may overlook psychological factors.  Overall, the small body of literature indicates that there are most certainly cognitive processes at work when one is choosing a travel mode, and that these processes do not necessarily relate to an objective assessment of the characteristics of a particular mode or demographic factors.  In fact, Kuppam, Pendyala, and Rahman (1999) declare attitudinal data so important in understanding mode choices that “their omission from mode choice models may be more serious than the omission of demographic variables.” (p.75). 


Special note:  Maslow’s theory, although influential and important to the study of psychological motivational factors, has not been operationalized.  However, Alderfer’s ERG theory has been tested and is more in favor with organizational psychologists at this time.  For this reason, Alderfer’s ERG theory may be used as the basis for this project, as an extension and completion of Maslow’s original theory.


IV.  Project Schedule


1. Time Line


Project Start Date:  July 1st, 2003 


















Task 1 – Literature Review
















Task 2-Research to ID Key Indicators
















Task 3-

Data Collection
















Task 4-

Data Analysis
































































1st Draft internal review
















2nddraft expert reviews
















3rd draft funder reviews
















Complete report
















Final Report

















V.  Budget


Assessing the hierarchy of needs in levels of service

Budget Categories


Center Director Salary (rate X hours)


Faculty Salaries ($36.69 X 980)


Administrative Staff Salaries ($15.00 X 135)


Other Staff Salaries (rate X hours)


Student Salaries ($16.00 X 700)


Staff Benefits


Total Salaries and Benefits




Permanent Equipment


Expendable Property/Supplies


Domestic Travel


Foreign Travel


Other Direct Costs


Total Direct Costs


Indirect Costs


Total Costs























The project team will include faculty, students, and secretarial and other support staff who will work directly on the project and whose costs are reflected in the direct costs of the project as listed above.


VI.  Student Involvement


Graduate students may play a role in the research and data collection as well and the analysis and report writing.  Other anticipated student benefits will include synthesis of information and technology transfer support.


VII.  Relationship to Other Research Projects


This project will attempt to provide a new model of how transportation system users approach their mode choices that is different from any known studies on mode choice.  Clearly a new way interpreting mode choice decisions will have enormous impacts on transportation planning.


VIII.  Technology Transfer Activities/Peer Review


The final report will be available on the NCTR website ( in HTML and pdf formats.  The results of this project will be made available at conferences in Florida such as Florida Public Transportation Association, APTA, TRB and other related. A brief presentation by the PI will be recorded and available for playback as a streaming media presentation on the NCTR website.

Peer reviewers will include a representative from NCTR.


IX.  Potential Benefits of the Project


Urgency payoff:  Should either hierarchy be shown to exist, it has the potential of significantly changing the way we approach the transportation modeling process.


X.  Keywords


Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, Alderfer’s ERG theory, Motivation Theory in Transportation, Mode Choice, Motivation, Needs Hierarchy, Psychology in Transportation.


National Center for Transit Research · at the Center For Urban Transportation Research · University of South Florida · 4202 E. Fowler Ave., CUT100 · Tampa, FL 33620-5375 · (813) 974-3120 · (813) 974-5168 · · Comments: