Open Access Te Herenga Waka-Victoria University of Wellington
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Rebuilding Sustainable Commuting in Christchurch? A mixed-methods study of the effects of workplace relocation on transport choice and emissions

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Version 2 2023-09-26, 23:56
Version 1 2021-11-23, 02:10
posted on 2023-09-26, 23:56 authored by Whitwell, Kate

Tackling the challenge of climate change will require rapid emissions reductions across all sectors, including transport. This study adds to the literature by investigating factors that may encourage sustainable transport choices at a time of change and therefore reduce emissions. A mix of quantitative and qualitative methods was used to explore the impact of a relocation of employees from several dispersed work locations back to one office building in the central business district on transport choices and carbon emissions in Christchurch, New Zealand.  This case study found that such a recentralisation of employment can result in employees making more sustainable transport choices and can contribute to decreases in transport emissions from commuting, even in a highly car-dependent city. The relocation led to a 12 percent rise in the proportion of employees commuting actively or by public transport and resulted in a significant drop in commuting emissions (16 percent). The primary contributing factor was the change in location of the office itself, reducing the average commuting distance and increasing accessibility to public transport and active travel. A further contributing factor was the perceived reduction in parking availability at the new location. Further results support the existing literature on barriers to sustainable transport, identifying any factor that impacts on the feasibility of the journey by alternative modes, such as commute time or safety, as a significant barrier to uptake. Overall findings suggest that relocating offices provides a good opportunity to encourage employees to consider changing to a more sustainable commute mode, and that significant numbers may make such a shift if commute time or distance are reduced. Realising substantial mode shift however will depend on cities providing feasible and efficient sustainable alternatives to driving a car to work.


Copyright Date


Date of Award



Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Rights License


Degree Discipline

Environmental Studies

Degree Grantor

Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Degree Level


Degree Name

Master of Environmental Studies

ANZSRC Type Of Activity code


Victoria University of Wellington Item Type

Awarded Research Masters Thesis



Victoria University of Wellington School

School of Geography, Environment and Earth Sciences


Chapman, Ralph