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Land use and travel behaviour: expected effects from the perspective of utility theory and activity-based theories


  • Kees Maat
  • Bert van Wee
  • Dominic Stead


Assumptions about the effects of various land-use characteristics on travel patterns have found their way into diverse concepts of planning and design, such as the compact city and neighbourhood-design principles. In general, these concepts aim at reducing travel distances and reducing car-travel speed, as it is assumed that as travel distances are shorter, individuals will travel less, and the relative competitive position of slower modes is increased. Although some literature supports the link between land use and travel behaviour, for the greater part limited effects have been concluded, whereas in others it has been concluded that there is virtually no effect. We argue that the effects fall short of the expectations advocated by the land-use concepts, because of shortcomings behind assumptions concerning the relationships between land use and travel behaviour. We argue that utility-based and activity-based theories add some extra insights. Various behavioural responses in terms of travel-time changes are possible, depending on whether travel time is minimised, benefits maximised, or activity patterns optimised. It is concluded that the contribution of compact urban designs to reduction on travel may not be as straightforward as is suggested by their advocates. In any case, a simplified distance-oriented and trip-oriented approach is unable to examine complex behaviour, and a broader framework of space and time is needed.

Suggested Citation

  • Kees Maat & Bert van Wee & Dominic Stead, 2005. "Land use and travel behaviour: expected effects from the perspective of utility theory and activity-based theories," Environment and Planning B: Planning and Design, Pion Ltd, London, vol. 32(1), pages 33-46, January.
  • Handle: RePEc:pio:envirb:v:32:y:2005:i:1:p:33-46

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    1. repec:eee:jotrge:v:70:y:2018:i:c:p:141-147 is not listed on IDEAS
    2. Cao, Xinyu (Jason) & Mokhtarian, Patricia L. & Handy, Susan L., 2009. "The relationship between the built environment and nonwork travel: A case study of Northern California," Transportation Research Part A: Policy and Practice, Elsevier, vol. 43(5), pages 548-559, June.
    3. repec:eee:trapol:v:76:y:2019:i:c:p:78-89 is not listed on IDEAS
    4. Veronique Acker & Frank Witlox, 2011. "Commuting trips within tours: how is commuting related to land use?," Transportation, Springer, vol. 38(3), pages 465-486, May.
    5. repec:eee:jotrge:v:44:y:2015:i:c:p:76-86 is not listed on IDEAS
    6. repec:eee:jotrge:v:18:y:2010:i:3:p:382-392 is not listed on IDEAS
    7. Tae-Hyoung Gim, 2012. "A meta-analysis of the relationship between density and travel behavior," Transportation, Springer, vol. 39(3), pages 491-519, May.
    8. Figueroa, Maria J. & Nielsen, Thomas A. Sick & Siren, Anu, 2014. "Comparing urban form correlations of the travel patterns of older and younger adults," Transport Policy, Elsevier, vol. 35(C), pages 10-20.
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    10. repec:eee:jotrge:v:18:y:2010:i:3:p:393-401 is not listed on IDEAS
    11. Gordon, Ian, 2008. "Density and the built environment," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 36(12), pages 4652-4656, December.
    12. Cao, XinYu, 2007. "The Causal Relationship between the Built Environment and Personal Travel Choice: Evidence from Northern California," Institute of Transportation Studies, Working Paper Series qt1n90z8h8, Institute of Transportation Studies, UC Davis.
    13. Veronique Van Acker & Frank Witlox, 2005. "Exploring the relationship between land-use system and travel behaviour - some first findings," ERSA conference papers ersa05p601, European Regional Science Association.
    14. repec:taf:transp:v:40:y:2017:i:6:p:641-660 is not listed on IDEAS
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    16. Peter Widhalm & Yingxiang Yang & Michael Ulm & Shounak Athavale & Marta González, 2015. "Discovering urban activity patterns in cell phone data," Transportation, Springer, vol. 42(4), pages 597-623, July.
    17. repec:eee:jotrge:v:32:y:2013:i:c:p:38-48 is not listed on IDEAS
    18. Jie Zhang & Yang Xie, 2015. "Optimal Intra-Urban Hierarchy of Activity Centers—A Minimized Household Travel Energy Consumption Approach," Sustainability, MDPI, Open Access Journal, vol. 7(9), pages 1-19, August.
    19. Yusak Susilo & Kees Maat, 2007. "The influence of built environment to the trends in commuting journeys in the Netherlands," Transportation, Springer, vol. 34(5), pages 589-609, September.
    20. Cao, Xinyu, 2006. "The Causal Relationship between the Built Environment and Personal Travel Choice: Evidence from Northern California," University of California Transportation Center, Working Papers qt07q5p340, University of California Transportation Center.

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