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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Traditional Neighborhood Shopping Districts: Patterns of Use and Modes of Access

  • Author(s): Steiner, Ruth L.
  • et al.

This dissertation examines the New Urbanists' contention that retail centers within easy walking of residential neighborhoods will attract a much higher walk and bike mode share and many fewer and shorter trips than planners and traffic engineers have typically assumed. This contention of the New Urbanists is compared to that of the travel behaviorists, who argue that travelers' choice of destinations for shopping is a function of modal availability, travel time and cost, and the number, amount and variety of land uses available at each destination, such that many residents will bypass shopping in their neighborhood and go to other destinations, while non-residents may choose to shop in the neighborhood based upon its attractiveness and accessibility.

This paper answers the following general questions: Who uses neighborhood shopping districts? Under what conditions do the presence of retail activities within walking distance of housing support walking as a mode of transportation for non-work trips? This broad question is answered by considering the following related questions in traditional neighborhoods: (1) To what extent to these shopping areas attract residents and to what extent do they attract non-residents? (2) How do the complexity of travel, frequency of shopping and types of goods and services used by residents differ from those of non-residents? (3) What mode of transportation do the residents and non-residents use to get to the shopping areas? (4) What characteristics of travel (complexity of travel, frequency of travel) and shopping (types of stops influence mode choice? (5) How do the travel and shopping characteristics and the mode of travel vary among the shopping areas? (6) What level of shopping activity is supported in these shopping areas and can they include lower levels of parking as suggested by the New Urbanists? (7) What factors do customers consider in determining where to shop and how do these attitudes differ between walkers and non-walkers? and (8) What factors lead merchants to locate in various shopping areas and how well do merchants understand their customer base?

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