IDEAS home Printed from
MyIDEAS: Log in (now much improved!) to save this paper

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

Listed author(s):
  • Schwanen, Tim


  • Dieleman, Frans M.


  • Dijst, Martin


Registered author(s):

    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.

    If you experience problems downloading a file, check if you have the proper application to view it first. In case of further problems read the IDEAS help page. Note that these files are not on the IDEAS site. Please be patient as the files may be large.

    File URL:
    Download Restriction: no

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

    in new window

    Date of creation: Aug 2002
    Handle: RePEc:wiw:wiwrsa:ersa02p069
    Contact details of provider: Postal:
    Welthandelsplatz 1, 1020 Vienna, Austria

    Web page:

    References listed on IDEAS
    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.:

    in new window

    1. 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.
    2. Alex Anas & Richard Arnott & Kenneth A. Small, 1998. "Urban Spatial Structure," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 36(3), pages 1426-1464, September.
    3. Mokhtarian, Patricia L. & Salomon, Ilan, 2001. "How derived is the demand for travel? Some conceptual and measurement considerations," Transportation Research Part A: Policy and Practice, Elsevier, vol. 35(8), pages 695-719, September.
    4. David Levinson, 1998. "Accessibility and the Journey to Work," Working Papers 199802, University of Minnesota: Nexus Research Group.
    5. R Cervero & K-L Wu, 1997. "Polycentrism, Commuting, and Residential Location in the San Francisco Bay Area," Environment and Planning A, , vol. 29(5), pages 865-886, May.
    6. 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.
    7. Genevieve Giuliano & Kenneth A. Small, 1993. "Is the Journey to Work Explained by Urban Structure?," Urban Studies, Urban Studies Journal Limited, vol. 30(9), pages 1485-1500, November.
    8. David Levinson & Ajay Kumar, 1994. "The Rational Locator: Why Travel Times Have Remained Stable," Working Papers 199402, University of Minnesota: Nexus Research Group.
    9. 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.
    10. David Levinson & Ajay Kumar, 1997. "Density and the Journey to Work," Working Papers 199701, University of Minnesota: Nexus Research Group.
    11. 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.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

    This item is not listed on Wikipedia, on a reading list or among the top items on IDEAS.

    When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:wiw:wiwrsa:ersa02p069. 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: (Gunther Maier)

    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.

    If references are entirely missing, you can add them using this form.

    If the full references list an item that is present in RePEc, but the system did not link to it, you can help with 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 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.

    This information is provided to you by IDEAS at the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis using RePEc data.