Assessing Objective and Subjective Spatial Influences of Modal Choice

Assessing Objective and Subjective Spatial Influences of Modal Choice

WINNER OF The Planning for Sustainable Land Use and Transport Award


V Van Acker, B Derudder, F Witlox, Ghent University, BE


Only recently soft factors are included in land use-travel behaviour studies but without questioning whether these factors correspond to the objective reality. Hence, this paper evaluates the travel consequences of (mis)matched spatial perceptions.


Common studies on the interaction between land use and travel behaviour might come across as deterministic: travel behaviour tends to be explained by objective spatial characteristics of the land use patterns without considering the underlying behavioural mechanisms. Higher densities, more diversity and better local accessibility are often believed to result in less car use, more public transport and more cycling and walking. However, not all people that reside in high-density, diverse and accessible neighbourhoods travel by definition by public transport or walk and bike instead of using their cars. This is (partly) due to differences in perceptions. It might be possible that one person perceives the residential neighbourhood as unsafe preventing him or her to walk, whereas another person feels it is relatively safe to walk around. Only recently, attempts are made to incorporate such subjective influences into land use-travel behaviour interaction models. However, almost none of these studies questions whether these subjective influences correspond to the objective reality. For example, a neighbourhood is objectively evaluated as pedestrian friendly (e.g., low motorized traffic levels, availability of sidewalks), but an individual with a specific lifestyle might still consider this neighbourhood as unsafe. Therefore, it would be interesting to balance objective variables against more subjective variables. One exception is the series of studies by Schwanen and Moktharian (2003, 2005a, b) which focuses on the concept of residential neighbourhood type dissonance, or mismatch between preferred and actual type residential location. They found that travel behaviour of the mismatched individuals corresponds to the matched residents of the actual neighbourhoods, suggesting that the influence of land use patterns remain important despite mismatched spatial preferences. However, it might be interesting to know whether the perception of the current residence also corresponds with the objectively measured land use characteristics of that residential neighbourhood. This would offer insights in the accuracy of someone?s knowledge about their actual residential neighbourhood. For example, the distance between the residence and the nearest bus stop can objectively be measured but there are no guarantees that a short distance might also perceived as such. Especially non-public transport users might not be aware that a buss top is within close distance of their residence; In this paper, we will use two different datasets to analyze the travel consequences of (mis)matched spatial perceptions. The first dataset is collected through on Internet survey on lifestyles and leisure mobility in Flanders (Belgium), but also asked about how respondents perceived their current residential neighbourhood. By adding spatial information from other land use databases, spatial perceptions can be balanced against the objective spatial characteristics of the respondent?s current residential neighbourhood. The consequences of the (mis)matched spatial perceptions on modal choice for leisure trips will be evaluated. A second dataset is collected within the framework of the CIVITAS-project in Ghent (Belgium), an European initiative that helps cities (Ghent, among others) to achieve a more sustainable urban transport system by implementing and evaluating an integrated set of technology and policy-based measures. One of these measures is the improvement of the cycling and walking infrastructure. Therefore, objective walk-ability and bike-ability indices were constructed which can be balanced against the subjective perception of walking and cycling in Ghent, and the actual use of bikes and walking in the city.


Association for European Transport