Introducing Non-Normality of Latent Psychological Constructs in Choice Modeling with an Application to Bicyclist Route Choice

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Bhat, Chandra R.
Dubey, Subodh K.
Nagel, Kai

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In the current paper, we propose the use of a multivariate skew-normal (MSN) distribution function for the latent psychological constructs within the context of an integrated choice and latent variable (ICLV) model system. The multivariate skew-normal (MSN) distribution that we use is tractable, parsimonious in parameters that regulate the distribution and its skewness, and includes the normal distribution as a special interior point case (this allows for testing with the traditional ICLV model). Our procedure to accommodate non-normality in the psychological constructs exploits the latent factor structure of the ICLV model, and is a flexible, yet very efficient approach (through dimension-reduction) to accommodate a multivariate non-normal structure across all indicator and outcome variables in a multivari8ate system through the specification of a much lower-dimensional multivariate skew-normal distribution for the structural errors. Taste variations (i.e., heterogeneity in sensitivity to response variables) can also be introduced efficiently and in a non-normal fashion through interactions of explanatory variables with the latent variables. The resulting skew normal ICLV (SN-ICLV) model we develop is suitable for estimation using Bhat’s (2011) maximum approximate composite marginal likelihood (MACML) inference approach. The proposed SN-ICLV model is applied to model bicyclists’ route choice behavior using a web-based survey of Texas bicyclists. The results reveal evidence for non-normality in the latent constructs. From a substantive point of view, the results suggest that the most unattractive features of a bicycle route are long travel times (for commuters), heavy motorized traffic volume, absence of a continuous bicycle facility, and high parking occupancy rates and long lengths of parking zones along the route.


At the time of publication C.R. Bhat and S.K. Dubey were at the University of Texas at Austin, and K. Nagel at the Institute for Land and Sea Transport.

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