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Open Access Publications from the University of California

What Affects Commute Mode Choice: Neighborhood Physical Structure or Preferences Toward Neighborhoods?


The academic literature on the impact of urban form on travel behavior has increasingly recognized that residential location choice and travel choices may be interconnected. We contribute to the understanding of this interrelation by studying to what extent commute mode choice differs by residential neighborhood and by neighborhood type dissonance—the mismatch between a commuter's current neighborhood type and her preferences regarding physical attributes of the residential neighborhood. Using data from the San Francisco Bay Area, we find that neighborhood type dissonance is statistically significantly associated with commute mode choice: dissonant urban residents are more likely to commute by private vehicle than consonant urbanites but not quite as likely as true suburbanites. However, differences between neighborhoods tend to be larger than between consonant and dissonant residents within a neighborhood. Physical neighborhood structure thus appears to have an autonomous impact on commute mode choice. The analysis also shows that the impact of neighborhood type dissonance interacts with that of commuters' beliefs about automobile use, suggesting that these are to be reckoned with when studying the joint choices of residential location and commute mode.

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