Determinants of sustainable mode choice in different socio-cultural contexts: A comparison of Rome and San Francisco

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date


Subject Area

place - europe, place - north america, ridership - mode choice, ridership - attitudes, ridership - behaviour, land use - impacts, land use - urban density, policy - sustainable


International comparative research, modal choice, personal traits, population density, space syntax, street network integration


This paper is a part two of a study investigating the relative importance of the built environment, socio-demographic, and attitudinal factors on mode choice. A semi-experimental approach that aims to measure causal effects of the built environment is utilized. This paper reports spatial analysis, survey and modeling results for San Francisco, CA, USA and compares the results with a previous similar study in Rome, Italy. Results reveal that the local street network's integration is important in both cities and that in both cases built environment seems to have higher impact on mode choice than attitudes and socio-demographic factors. Built environment is especially impactful when diversity, design quality, density and syntactical accessibility are combined. In San Francisco willingness to spend time walking, biking or taking transit is lower than in Rome, and residents are more sensitive to concerns about safety and security. Work travel is more affected by demographic and attitudinal factors in San Francisco than in Rome implying that in San Francisco, nonwork travel behavior may have slightly higher potential to respond positively to improvements in the built environment than work trips. In Rome, peer pressure, cost sensitivity, and probiking attitude can compensate for lack of some built environmental characteristics, but not in San Francisco, where only protransit attitude has this effect. Moreover, lack of any built environmental characteristics reduces the possibility of sustainable mode choice more dramatically in San Francisco pointing to the higher importance of investments on improving the built environment rather than marketing efforts to change attitudes.


Permission to publish the abstract has been given by Taylor&Francis, copyright remains with them.