A research project was undertaken in 1994 to investigate motorists' perceptions of discomfort and risk factors associated with using unsealed roads in New Zealand. The investigations particularly addressed the extent to which these factors were not included in the evaluation procedures used in the Transit New Zealand 1991 Project Evaluation Manual.
The project involved: a review of international literature on motorists' perceptions of the benefits of sealing unsealed roads; focus-group discussions with international tourists and domestic travellers to explore their perceptions of unsealed roads; roadside surveys on three unsealed roads, using a 'willingness to pay' approach to assess motorists' valuations of the benefits of sealing these routes; and a survey to assess motorists' valuations of the four characteristics of unsealed road surfaces, of roughness, grip, dust, loose stones.
The surveys found that motorists place substantial values on the discomfort and risk factors associated with the use of unsealed roads (compared to sealed roads). These factors are not incorporated in the current evaluation procedures. The average values found were equivalent to increasing the unit value of travel time savings by 25–50% for unsealed roads relative to sealed roads. Incorporating an allowance for the discomfort and risk factors in project evaluations would increase the benefits for typical road sealing projects by between 30% and 100%.
Recommendations are made to modify the project evaulation procedures and to better quantify the discomfort and risk factors of road sealing with further research.
Keywords: Attitudes, discomfort, New Zealand, market research, perceptions, risk, roads, tourism, sealing, users