Stephen Parkes


Stephen Parkes



PhD topic:

The longevity of behaviour change: a case study of the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games.


Professor Greg Marsden
and Dr Ann Jopson

What were you doing before you started your PhD, and why did you choose to do it?
Prior to my PhD, I completed the MSc Sustainability (Transport) course here at ITS. I really enjoyed my experience of studying at ITS and felt that this was the right place for me to continue my studies toward a PhD. The Institute has a great reputation and is filled with individuals with a range of expertise in transport research. I applied for a specific PhD project that had been proposed and was fortunate enough to be accepted.

Can you tell us a bit more about this specific PhD project you applied for?
My PhD research is examining the longevity of travel behaviour change, and I’m looking specifically at the London 2012 Olympics and Paralympics. The reason I am interested in the Olympics is because it was a unique event in London that had the potential to cause a great deal of disruption to the transport network, and understanding the behavioural response to this is very interesting. I am seeking to understand the degree of change that occurred to work journeys during the Games and whether any changes that did occur were sustained afterwards. As part of this, I am applying a theoretical framework (the transtheoretical model), which has been used to study behaviour change in transport. I am interested in exploring the value of this framework in the context of a large disruptive event, such as the Olympics.

So you have looked quite closely at behaviour change around the Olympics and Paralympics. What impact do you think your research might have on understanding travel behaviour?
There is not a great deal of understanding about how long changes in travel behaviour are sustained for. The advantage of doing this research in a PhD setting is that I have a longer period of time over which to collect data, which adds a really interesting element to the research. Investigating the Games through the lens of a theoretical framework adds a further element to the research and can contribute to the understanding there is about behaviour change responses to disruptions.

Why did you decide to go into this line of research?
One of the main reasons I was drawn to this particular topic was that it involved studying the London Olympics. I thought this would make a fascinating case study owing to its scale and impact on London’s transport network, and this was a valuable opportunity to study a unique disruption to the transport system. This particular research topic also gave me the opportunity to contribute to a large research project, the Disruption Project.

What is the biggest challenge you have faced so far in your PhD?
There are many challenges that need to be faced when completing a PhD, but I think one that stands out for me relates to tackling the large amounts of data I was fortunate enough to have access to. Unravelling these large data sets and utilising them to allow me to investigate my research questions was something that required a good deal of patience and perseverance.

What has been the most fulfilling part of your PhD so far?
Presenting findings from my research is always a very fulfilling aspect of my work. During my PhD I have been fortunate enough to travel abroad to present my research at conferences. Last year I went to Rio de Janeiro, which was a great experience! What is most fulfilling about such conferences is being able to present my research to colleagues from around the world and contribute to the on-going discourse. When I presented in Rio, I was part of a session all about the Olympics. It was great to be able to contribute to an interesting discussion about transport and the Olympics, the next one of which will, incidentally, be held in Rio.

You are nearing the end of your PhD. What have you got planned for the future? I’m exploring possibilities of either working in industry or staying on in academia. Both options would offer really interesting opportunities where I could utilise the skills I have developed during my PhD.