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Community Design and Travel Behavior: Exploring the Implications for Women

Abstract

In the face of growing levels of congestion and persistent air quality problems, planners increasingly see community design as a way of reducing automobile dependence. Because of growing levels of obesity and the attendant health problems, public health officials have also turned to community design as a way of increasing physical activity. Proponents from both camps argue that higher population and employment densities, greater mixes of land uses, more gridlike street networks, and better transit service contribute to lower levels of driving and higher levels of walking, and they cite numerous studies to support their cases. But most studies focus on the population as a whole, and few studies so far consider the ways in which the effect of community design might differ for particular segments of the population given their particular travel needs. As evidence of the complexity of women's travel accumulates, researchers have begun to explore what community design means for women, both the possibility that community design adds to their travel burden and the possibility that it can help to ease that burden. Women face significant concerns related to family, health, and safety that complicate their daily lives; these concerns contribute to their need for travel and to the constraints they face in attempting to meet those needs. Communities designed so that women must drive long distances to work, to daycare, to shopping, or to medical appointments add to the time and cost of meeting their personal and household needs. In contrast, communities designed for shorter driving distances and for modes other than driving may offer women the option of reducing the time and money they spend on travel. At this time, few questions have been answered and many questions remain, not only about the implications of community design for the travel of women but also about the relationship between community design and travel behavior more generally. As a step toward building a research agenda on the implications for women of the relationship between community design and travel behavior, the available literature is reviewed here, original data analysis is presented, and outstanding issues are discussed for the following questions: - What is community design? - How does community design affect travel behavior? - How might these effects differ for women? - Where do we go from here?

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