Population and Employment Density and Travel Behavior in Large U.S. Cities


Gary Barnes

September 2001

Report no. MnDOT 2001-24


Economics, Planning

This research project sought to determine whether high-population density or some other aggregate land use characteristic can be used to create beneficial effects on travel behavior at the level of the entire urbanized area. The research also looked at gaining a better understanding of the reasons for variations in travel behavior across large U.S. cities. This research involved a comprehensive analysis, considering an unusually large number of factors. Researchers also developed a number of ways to describe aggregate "macro" land use in an urbanized area specifically for this study. The study found that land use, at the aggregate level studied in this project, is not a major leverage point in determining overall population travel choices. Much policy seems to be based on the belief that relatively small changes to land use will have a big impact on travel choices. The findings here imply just the opposite - that even very big, widespread differences in land use have very little impact on travel behavior, in good ways or in bad ways.

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