The relationship between the built environment and nonwork travel: A case study of Northern California

Xinyu (Jason) Cao, Patricia L. Mokhtarian, Susan L. Handy

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    256 Scopus citations


    Many studies have found that residents living in suburban neighborhoods drive more and walk less than their counterparts in traditional neighborhoods. This evidence supports the advocacy of smart growth strategies to alter individuals' travel behavior. However, the observed differences in travel behavior may be more of a residential choice than a travel choice. Applying the seemingly unrelated regression approach to a sample from Northern California, we explored the relationship between the residential environment and nonwork travel frequencies by auto, transit, and walk/bicycle modes, controlling for residential self-selection. We found that residential preferences and travel attitudes (self-selection) significantly influenced tripmaking by all three modes, and also that neighborhood characteristics (the built environment and its perception) retained a separate influence on behavior after controlling for self-selection. Both preferences/attitudes and the built environment itself played a more prominent role in explaining the variation in non-motorized travel than for auto and transit travel. Taken together, our results suggest that if cities use land use policies to offer options to drive less and use transit and non-motorized modes more, many residents will tend to do so.

    Original languageEnglish (US)
    Pages (from-to)548-559
    Number of pages12
    JournalTransportation Research Part A: Policy and Practice
    Issue number5
    StatePublished - Jun 2009

    Bibliographical note

    Funding Information:
    The data collection was funded by the UC Davis-Caltrans Air Quality Project and was supported by grants from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the University of California Transportation Center. Thanks to Ted Buehler, Gustavo Collantes, and Sam Shelton for their work on the implementation of the survey. Comments by two anonymous referees improved this paper.


    • Land use
    • Seemingly unrelated regression
    • Self-selection
    • Smart growth
    • Travel behavior
    • Urban design


    Dive into the research topics of 'The relationship between the built environment and nonwork travel: A case study of Northern California'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

    Cite this