Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date


Subject Area

land use - transit oriented development, ridership - commuting, ridership - behaviour, place - urban


Urban development, United States, Transportation economics, Transport economics, Transit oriented development, Socioeconomic factors, Socioeconomic aspects, Retail trade, Markets, Major activity centers, Land use, Human behavior, Economics, Decision making, Consumers, Behaviour, Behavior, Activity centers


An essential tenet of the new urbanism is that existing as well as new activity centers of metropolitan regions should be developed to higher densities and a greater mix of uses. New urbanism suggests that if centers with different commercial functions are numerous and linked by high-quality transit service, people will significantly reduce their use of automobiles for both commuting and nonwork travel. Working against this ideal of transit-oriented development (TOD) as an organizing concept for urban design are strong market and socioeconomic forces that have created the current highly variegated commercial structure characteristic of urbanized areas in the United States. Results are reported of a preliminary exploration of retail industry decision making, consumer behavior, economic trends, and other key factors that have shaped the retail environment of metropolitan areas over the past 50 years. Well-known human motivations such as bargain hunting, comparison shopping, and variety seeking are reflected in the ongoing executive decision making and resource allocation by chain stores and multinational service institutions that increasingly dominate consumer markets. Efforts to reshape existing land use patterns often meet strong opposition from current residents. This complex of consumer, organizational, and political behavior could well constrain the vehicle travel reductions sought by proponents of new urbanism. Competitive retail industry practices and the associated consumer response are potential impediments to the success of TOD that should be addressed by metropolitan planners.