What Neighborhood Are You In? Empirical Findings of Relationships Between Household Travel and Neighborhood Characteristics

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date


Subject Area

planning - methods, planning - surveys, ridership - mode choice


Travel surveys, Travel behavior, Terminology, Neighborhoods, Mode choice, Modal choice, Households, Empirical methods, Definitions, Cluster analysis, Choice of transportation, Census, Aggregation


Although there have been several studies regarding the influence of neighborhood characteristics on residential location choice and household travel behavior, to date there has been no uniform, concrete definition of neighborhood in the literature. This paper seeks to fill this gap in the literature by using public data sources to present an alternative way of defining neighborhood and neighborhood type. The paper also investigates the interaction between neighborhood environment and household travel in the United States. A neighborhood here is spatially identical to a census tract. A neighborhood type identifies a group of neighborhoods with similar neighborhood socioeconomic, demographic, and land use characteristics. This is accomplished by performing log-likelihood clustering on the Census Transportation Planning Package 2000 data. Five household travel measures (number of trips per household, mode share, average travel distance and time per trip, and vehicle miles of travel), are then compared across the resulting 10 neighborhood types, using the 2001 National Household Travel Survey household and trip files. Results show that household life cycle status and residential location are positively interdependent. Transit availability at place of residence tends to increase the transit mode share regardless of household automobile ownership and income level. Job/housing trade-offs are evident when mobility is not of concern. The study also reveals racial preference in residential location and contrasting travel characteristics among ethnic groups. There is evidence of significant effects of living environment on household travel and vehicle use. Urban households have comparable vehicle ownership to their suburban and rural counterparts, but higher vehicle miles of travel takes place in rural and suburban areas.