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The influences of the built environment and residential self-selection on pedestrian behavior: Evidence from Austin, TX


Pedestrian travel offers a wide range of benefits to both individuals and society. Planners and public health officials alike have been promoting policies that improve the quality of the built environment for pedestrians: mixed land uses, interconnected street networks, sidewalks and other facilities. Whether such policies will prove effective remains open to debate. Two issues in particular need further attention. First, the impact of the built environment on pedestrian behavior may depend on the purpose of the trip, whether for utilitarian or recreational purposes. Second, the connection between the built environment and pedestrian behavior may be more a matter of residential location choice than of travel choice. This study aims to provide new evidence on both questions. Using 1368 respondents to a 1995 survey conducted in six neighborhoods in Austin, TX, two separate negative binomial models were estimated for the frequencies of strolling trips and pedestrian shopping trips within neighborhoods. We found that although residential self-selection impacts both types of trips, it is the most important factor explaining walking to a destination (i.e. for shopping). After accounting for self-selection, neighborhood characteristics (especially perceptions of these characteristics) impact strolling frequency, while characteristics of local commercial areas are important in facilitating shopping trips.

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