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Design and development of a stated choice experiment for interdependent agents: accounting for interactions between buyers and sellers of urban freight services


Stated choice experiments have proven to be a powerful tool in eliciting preferences across a broad range of choice settings. This paper outlines the elements of a group-based experiment designed for interdependent urban freight stakeholders, along with the procedure to administer the questionnaire sequentially. The focus is on the design of a computer-assisted personal survey instrument and the value in disseminating the details of a new approach to design and collect stated choice data for interacting agents. The paper also discusses how to specify a reference alternative, and then how to recruit appropriate real-market or representative decision-making group members to participate in a subsequent phase of the survey, which incorporates the reference alternative and contextual information from an initial phase. The empirical strategy, set out in some detail, provides a new framework within which to understand more fully the role that specific attributes, such as variable user charges, influencing freight distribution chains might play, and who in the supply chain is affected by specific attributes in terms of willingness to pay for the gains in distribution efficiency.

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  1. Additional attractions of a CAPI questionnaire are logic checks (i.e., automatic prompts for verification of unusual, implausible-sounding, and impossible responses and for missing data), and automated prompts for information such as indications of a preferred SC alternative when both are initially labelled as unacceptable.

  2. As identified on a scale from questions to identify how important an issue is in the business relationship with the other firm to:

    (a) be entirely in charge of decision making in the supply chain;

    (b) be chiefly in charge of decision making, but to consider the input of the other firm;

    (c) allow the other firm to have control over the scheduling of trucks;

    (d) allow the other firm to have control over the routing of trucks;

    (e) take the role of leader when making decisions with the other firm;

    (f) share responsibility with the other firm in finding and selecting solutions to problems;

    (g) preserve the business relationship;

    (h) be flexible in response to changing needs of the other firm;

    (i) have the other firm be flexible in response to the changing needs of his or her organisation;

    (j) communicate with the other firm to ensure that costs and performance are at satisfactory levels;

    (k) work with the other firm to find and implement methods to lower costs and improve performance; and

    (l) have information shared between his or her organisation and the other firm, either manually or electronically.

  3. Although attribute processing strategies (APSs) indicated in figure is an important feature of stated choice experiments, it is not discussed in this paper because it is not central to the development of the group choice method. APS is discussed in detail in Hensher et al. (2007) and Hensher (2006).

  4. To conserve space, many of the CAPI screens are not provided but are available on request.

  5. We wanted to obtain a sufficient number of observations involving trips longer than 2 or 3 h, acknowledging that freight trips in Australia predominantly involve travel of less than 100 km. Hence, we attempted to obtain details from trips involving up to 7 h travel, with as close to uniform spread as feasible across the trip segments of: 2 h or less, 2–4 h, and 4–7 h.

  6. The practice game offers a description of the choice setting, and an itemised explanation of the tasks involved for each choice set. Whilst multiple practice games may be ideal in theory (Carson et al. 1994), pre-testing revealed that the relatively demanding nature of the freight transporter version of the survey instrument made a single practice game an appropriate choice.

  7. Given that tasks involve some unfamiliar terms, respondents are given definitions of the terms “attribute” and “alternative”, and informed that a showcard is available for any unfamiliar terms in the choice sets. Respondents are also informed that any details relating either to the trip or to the relationship between the two firms that are not shown in the choice sets can be found by clicking on the buttons labelled “Trip Details” and “Relationship Details”, respectively.

  8. At least one of the alternatives must be indicated as a first choice, which was not found to be restrictive, given that the reference alternative represents the status quo, which was clearly acceptable in the market.

  9. If there are J alternatives, and all parameters in the model are zero, then the choice shares for any given choice situation will simply be equal to \(\frac{1} {J}\).

  10. This also holds for parameters once models are estimated on data collected using designs.


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Correspondence to David A. Hensher.

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Support for this research has been provided by the Australian Research Council Discovery Program under Grant DP0208269 on Freight Transport and the Environment. The comments of three referees have materially added to the clarity of the paper.

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Puckett, S.M., Hensher, D.A., Rose, J.M. et al. Design and development of a stated choice experiment for interdependent agents: accounting for interactions between buyers and sellers of urban freight services. Transportation 34, 429–451 (2007).

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  • Stated choice experiments
  • D-optimality
  • Urban freight
  • Variable user charging
  • Group decision making
  • Distribution chains