IDEAS home Printed from
   My bibliography  Save this paper

A Taste for Trips out of Town: Urban Sprawl and Access to Open Space


  • Wouter Vermeulen

    () (CPB Netherlands Bureau for Economic Policy Analysis)

  • Jan Rouwendal

    (CPB Netherlands Bureau for Economic Policy Analysis)


Residential development at the urban fringe raises the cost of trips to open space. We derive a simple expression for the tax that internalizes this effect of sprawl in a monocentric city andapply it using survey data on recreational activity. Urban sprawl is inefficient if landowners ignore the social value of open space in their decision to develop it. The absence of a market for open space amenities impedes reliable estimation of their value, so policies that control urban growth may be ill-informed (Brueckner, 2000). Our approach to this valuation problem relies on the well-established notion that travel costs of recreational activity serve as an implicit price (Hotelling, 1947; Phaneuf and Smith, 2006). We extend the conventional monocentric city model with a demand for ‘trips out of town’: recreation in large contiguous undeveloped areas like forests, wetlands or the countryside, for which open space within the urban boundary is an imperfect substitute. Urban expansion reduces accessibility of such ‘true open space’ for prior inhabitants. We derive a simple expression for the tax on conversion of agricultural land to urban use that internalizes this effect and apply it to the city of Amsterdam. The travel cost approach has rarely been applied to the valuation of open space in or near urban areas (McConnell and Walls, 2005). In particular, most applied welfare analyses of open space provision in a general equilibrium framework have been based on capitalization of benefits into local property values. This entails a focus on comparably localized effects.1 Notably, open space amenities in Cheshire and Sheppard (2002) are confined to a surrounding squared kilometre. Walsh (2007) also considers the benefit of proximity to public open space, yet the average distance is only about one kilometre in his empirical application. In large cities, visits to true open space will generally require a much longer trip.

Suggested Citation

  • Wouter Vermeulen & Jan Rouwendal, 2011. "A Taste for Trips out of Town: Urban Sprawl and Access to Open Space," CPB Discussion Paper 173, CPB Netherlands Bureau for Economic Policy Analysis.
  • Handle: RePEc:cpb:discus:173

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL:
    Download Restriction: no

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • Q26 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Renewable Resources and Conservation - - - Recreational Aspects of Natural Resources
    • R13 - Urban, Rural, Regional, Real Estate, and Transportation Economics - - General Regional Economics - - - General Equilibrium and Welfare Economic Analysis of Regional Economies
    • R52 - Urban, Rural, Regional, Real Estate, and Transportation Economics - - Regional Government Analysis - - - Land Use and Other Regulations

    NEP fields

    This paper has been announced in the following NEP Reports:


    Access and download statistics


    All material on this site has been provided by the respective publishers and authors. You can help correct errors and omissions. When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:cpb:discus:173. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (). General contact details of provider: .

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    We have no references for this item. You can help adding them by using this form .

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your RePEc Author Service profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    IDEAS is a RePEc service hosted by the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis . RePEc uses bibliographic data supplied by the respective publishers.