Spatial Analysis of Commuting to Work Intensities and Patterns in England and Wales and Leeds City Region

Spatial Analysis of Commuting to Work Intensities and Patterns in England and Wales and Leeds City Region


Thomas Murphy, School of Geography, University of Leeds, John Stillwell, School of Geography, University of Leeds, Lisa Buckner, School of Sociology and Social Policy, University of Leeds


Multiple quantitative techniques and datasets are used at multiple spatial levels to gain a broad and deep understanding of commuting behaviours and patterns in the UK.
This piece of research will form the middle part of the overall PhD thesis.


Commuting involves the regular movement of an individual from a place residence to a place of work and back again. The vast majority of individuals in employment are involved in making a commuting journey on a regular, often daily, basis. This behaviour is a relatively important (and often much disliked) part of many people’s routines, with a direct and indirect impact on their lives. One of the key sources of information about commuting intensities and spatial patterns is the population census in the United Kingdom, through which travel to work characteristics are captured resulting in large and complex data sets that are disseminated by the census agencies as aggregate counts (i.e. stocks of commuters based on where they live) or interaction counts (i.e. flows of commuters from where they live to where they work).
A number of commuting variables (relating to mode of travel) from the 2011 Census have been released by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) as part of the Aggregate Statistics for England and Wales, whilst the flow data are published independently for the UK as a whole as Special Workplace Statistics (SWS) or Special Travel Statistics in Scotland (STS). These data sets for 2011, known collectively as the Origin-Destination Statistics, are due to be published by ONS from March 2014.
This paper reports on analyses of these data sets at two levels. Firstly, data from the Aggregate Statistics (Tables KS015 and CT0015) are used to explore changes in overall commuting intensities and also proportions of commuters by mode of travel (including homeworking) at district level across England and Wales. These data are valuable in providing evidence of stocks of commuters according to where they are usually resident but do not provide information about their workplace destinations. A second set of analyses using interaction flow data from the Origin-Destination Statistics will be reported which identify patterns of commuting within the Leeds City Region (LCR). These data provide counts of commuting outflows from residential areas, inflows to workplace areas and flows between each residential origin and workplace destination. In this case, we will use the LCR as our geographical study area and examine changes in flows at different spatial scales, depending on which flow data from the 2011 Census are released in an accessible form. Choropleth maps are used to show variations in the commuting rates and intensities by district across the nation, whilst flow maps are used to show variations in the magnitudes of commuting flows between the districts and smaller areas at the local level.
The paper will also demonstrate how census commuting data can be used with a spatial microsimulation model of the LCR population to estimate daily flows of commuters with different demographic (sex, age, ethnicity) and socio-economic characteristics (occupation, economic activity). Ultimately, the findings from the research will support those tasked in local authorities and regional agencies with the responsibility to supply and maintain transport networks for those who require them.


Association for European Transport