The Built Environment and Trip Chaining Behavior Revisited: The Joint Effects of the Modifiable Areal Unit Problem and Tour Purpose

Blog by Liya Yang, Lingqian Hu and Zhenbo Wang

9 Feb 2018, 12:11 p.m.
Liya Yang, Lingqian Hu and Zhenbo Wang



Many policy makers and scholars believe that improving the built environment through urban planning and design can reduce travel. However, empirical research on the built environment-travel relationship has yielded mixed results. The inconsistent findings may be attributed to many factors, among which, treatments of travel purpose and the modifiable areal unit problem (MAUP) have rarely been examined.


This paper contributes to the literature by addressing travel purpose and the MAUP simultaneously in analyzing the built environment-travel relationship; existing studies on the relationship have either neglected both issues or addressed only one of them. Additionally, we used trip chains as the unit of analysis to describe travel; trip chain-based analysis can enhance the understanding of travel behavior and yield a more accurate estimation of the built environment-travel relationships. We use Beijing, China for the case study to expand the built environment-travel research to developing countries.


We classify three types of tours: subsistence (work-related), maintenance (household errands), and recreation tours, and identify seven different spatial units to address the MAUP. Based on data from the 2010 Beijing Comprehensive Travel Survey, this study uses logistic regressions to estimate the primary tour mode and tour complexity.


Results of the research identify the “ideal” spatial scale to measure the built environment for each type of tour purpose. Specifically, subsistence tours had the strongest association with the built environment at the TAZ and the 600m buffer level, while maintenance tours had the strongest association with the built environment at the 250m buffer level, and the built environment at the 1,500m buffer level mattered most for recreation tours.


This study provides a more sophisticated and nuanced understanding of the relationship between the built environment and travel, and provides valuable information for urban planning and transportation management policy, particularly by identifying the spatial scale at which to design and reconfigure the built environment to efficiently affect travel for different purposes.


Read the paper on Urban Studies - Online First here.



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