Neighborhoods, cars, and commuting in New York City: A discrete choice approach


Deborah Salon

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date


Subject Area

ridership - mode choice, ridership - commuting, mode - mass transit


Travel time, Travel costs, Transportation policy, Transportation investment, Transit, Residential choice, Public transit, New York City, New York (New York), Neighborhoods, Mode choice, Modal choice, Mass transit, Local transit, Journey time, Econometrics, Discrete choice, Commuting, Choice of transportation, Automobiles, Automobile use, Automobile usage, Automobile travel, Automobile ownership


Cities around the world are trying out a multitude of transportation policy and investment alternatives with the aim of reducing car-induced externalities. However, without a solid understanding of how people make their transportation and residential location choices, it is hard to tell which of these policies and investments are really doing the job and which are wasting precious city resources. The focus of this paper is the determinants of car ownership and car use for commuting. Using survey data from 1997 to 1998 collected in New York City, this paper uses discrete choice econometrics to estimate a model of the choices of car ownership and commute mode while also modeling the related choice of residential location. The main story told by this analysis is that New Yorkers are more sensitive to changes in travel time than they are to changes in travel cost. The model predicts that the most effective ways to reduce both auto ownership and car commuting involve changing the relative travel times for cars and transit, making transit trips faster by increasing both the frequency and the speed of service and making auto trips slower - perhaps simply by allowing traffic congestion. Population density also appears to have a substantial effect on car ownership in New York.


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