Alumni Feature Profile: Moyin Li, PhD, Travel Behavior Scholar

Moyin Li took in one of the great wonders of the natural world during a 2016 visit to the Grand Canyon National Park.

Research on ways to enhance mobility in urban areas — especially for the elderly and disadvantaged –have been a scholarly focus of Moyin Li, a graduate research assistant at the UTC who completed her PhD requirements in June of 2017.

Moyin began studies in the UIC College of Urban Planning and Public Affairs in 2012; during that time, she contributed to formal research projects involving transportation accessibility in metropolitan Chicago and ways to alleviate last mile issues.

She has been a co-author on three peer-reviewed papers that center on last mile, urban land use conversion and removing barriers to transportation; and, Moyin has been a co-author on conference presentations and papers that address mobility for older Americans, the role of transportation in relationship to time allocation for social activities, and strategies to expand bicycle sharing systems.

“Working as a transportation researcher at the UTC has helped me learn more about Chicago through my contributions to projects managed by the Center and in my own research,” Moyin said.

Another example of Moyin’s dedication to transportation scholarship centers on her participation in the annual George Krambles Transportation Scholarship Awards; she earned scholarship awards in 2014 and 2016.

Moyin’s thesis, “Travel Behavior and Interpersonal Network: Social Time, Mobility and Well-Being,” addressed mobility options and the potential impact mobility plays on social interaction and overall satisfaction with life.  Below is an abstract of the thesis.

Thesis Abstract

Social networks play important roles in the emotional and economic well-being of individuals. Building and sustaining these networks requires investments in time and effort, and it often requires face-to-face meetings which entail travel and communication by other technology mediated means. This dissertation seeks to offer new insights on social activity participation, particularly focusing on how technology shifts have changed time allocation and travel decisions, and whether the availability of mobility options (or lack thereof) affect social activity participation and subsequently life-satisfaction. More specifically, it investigates:

(i) Whether the evolution of communication technologies over the past few decades has affected the allocation of time to face-to-face social activities.

(ii) How social activities and life satisfaction among the elderly are affected by disability, availability of mobility options, and technology, and finally.

(iii) Through the development of an Agent Based Model, it seeks to understand how social networks and relationships evolve in different urban settings, and how these are affected by urban form and transportation options.

The research reveals that people’s social time use remains fairly stable despite the rapid change in communication technologies. It finds that mobility plays important roles in people’s social time use and personal happiness, especially among the elderly and disabled. In addition, through the Agent Based Model, it is observed that land use and transportation costs can influence people’s networks and their satisfaction with their social activity engagement. These findings provide important policy implications to transportation planners.