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The impact of metropolitan structure on commute behavior in the Netherlands: a multilevel approach

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  • Schwanen, Tim

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  • Dieleman, Frans M.

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  • Dijst, Martin

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    Abstract

    The effect of decentralization of land uses on travel behavior remains an unresolved issue in the academic literature. Some US researchers argue that a tendency towards polycentrism is associated with decreasing commute times and distances. Others have, however, suggested and shown the opposite commute times and distances tend to be longer in polycentric than in monocentric urban areas. Using this controversy as a starting point, we analyse how monocentric and polycentric urban structures affect commuting in the Netherlands with data from the 1998 National Travel Survey. Four kinds of urban systems are distinguished: one monocentric and three polycentric systems. In contrast to most previous work, we use multilevel regression analysis to take adequate account of the effects of individual and household attributes. The results indicate that urban structure influences most dimensions of commuting considered here. Yet, individual and household level variables are more important determinants than characteristics of the residential and workplace environment. Gender, household type and their interaction effects remain important determinants of commute behavior in the Netherlands; particularly women in two-earner households commute less than average. Education and income are both positively related to the amount of commuting. Further, the effects of mono- and polycentrism on commuting are more complicated than the literature makes us believe. When individual and household level factors are taken account of, polycentrism does not always result in more efficient commute patterns than monocentric urban structures: in most polycentric urban areas commute distances and times are longer than in monocentric ones. Only when polycentric regions consist of several relatively independent and self-contained development nodes are commute distances shorter than elsewhere. Commute times are in that case comparable to those in monocentric urban areas. The impact of urban structure disappears when commute time is related to the time spent on work activities; the ratio between commute time and work duration is not much affected by the type of urban system in which workers reside. The fact that commute times and distances are not lower in polycentric urban areas may be attributed to the specific situation in the Netherlands: strong spatial planning policies may have obstructed the relocation of employment and housing in close proximity of each other. However, the longer commute in most policentric regions may also indicate that workers and their households not always behave as urban economic theory predicts. In any case, the results show that it is necessary to distinguish several types of polycentric systems instead of merely using a dichotomy of monocentric and polycentric in the analysis of commuting.

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    Bibliographic Info

    Paper provided by European Regional Science Association in its series ERSA conference papers with number ersa02p069.

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    Date of creation: Aug 2002
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    Handle: RePEc:wiw:wiwrsa:ersa02p069

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    Please report citation or reference errors to , or , if you are the registered author of the cited work, log in to your RePEc Author Service profile, click on "citations" and make appropriate adjustments.:
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    1. Anas, Alex & Arnott, Richard & Small, Kenneth A., 1997. "Urban Spatial Structure," University of California Transportation Center, Working Papers qt835049q3, University of California Transportation Center.
    2. Mokhtarian, Patricia & Salomon, Ilan, 2001. "How Derived is the Demand for Travel? Some Conceptual and Measurement Considerations," Institute of Transportation Studies, Working Paper Series qt1z26n1r8, Institute of Transportation Studies, UC Davis.
    3. Giuliano, Genevieve & Small, Kenneth A., 1993. "Is the Journey to Work Explained by Urban Structure?," University of California Transportation Center, Working Papers qt2ss7x5b1, University of California Transportation Center.
    4. Salomon, Ilan & Mokhtarian, Patricia L., 1997. "Coping with Congestion: Understanding the Gap Between Policy Assumptions and Behavior," University of California Transportation Center, Working Papers qt4bh3b670, University of California Transportation Center.
    5. Lambert van der Laan, 1998. "Changing Urban Systems: An Empirical Analysis at Two Spatial Levels," Regional Studies, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 32(3), pages 235-247.
    6. David Levinson & Ajay Kumar, 1997. "Density and the Journey to Work," Working Papers 199701, University of Minnesota: Nexus Research Group.
    7. David Levinson & Ajay Kumar, 1994. "The Rational Locator: Why Travel Times Have Remained Stable," Working Papers 199402, University of Minnesota: Nexus Research Group.
    8. Tim Schwanen & Martin Dijst & Frans M Dieleman, 2002. "A microlevel analysis of residential context and travel time," Environment and Planning A, Pion Ltd, London, vol. 34(8), pages 1487-1507, August.
    9. David Levinson, 1998. "Accessibility and the Journey to Work," Working Papers 199802, University of Minnesota: Nexus Research Group.
    10. Tim Schwanen, 2002. "Urban form and commuting behaviour: a cross-European perspective," Tijdschrift voor Economische en Sociale Geografie, Royal Dutch Geographical Society KNAG, vol. 93(3), pages 336-343, 08.
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