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Another Look At Travel Patterns And Urban Form: The US And Great Britain

Genevieve Giuliano
This paper explores the relationship between land use patterns and individual mobility from a comparative international perspective. There is a vast literature on US automobile dependence. Major explanatory factors include: transportation, housing, land use and tax policy; per capita incomes; American cultural preferences; national geography; and spatial structure of US metropolitan areas (itself a result of the first three factors). Emphasizing the policy environment, many researchers have cast their analysis in comparative terms, noting the differences in automobile use between European countries and the US. It is argued that US patterns of metropolitan form, with low development densities and dispersed population and employment, reinforce auto dependence. In contrast, most European metropolitan areas, with higher densities and more centralized land use patterns, have lower levels of auto use. Stronger controls on land use employed in many European countries are seen as having preserved the compact form of metropolitan areas. These arguments imply significant relationships between land use patterns and travel behavior. Using travel diary data from the US and Great Britain, we compare these relationships across the two countries. We find that differences in daily trips and miles traveled are largely explained by differences in household income. High density is associated with less travel in the US, but not in Great Britain, likely the result of greater spatial concentration of low income households in the US and higher quality public transport in Great Britain.