Research Topic

The Built Environment and Travel Behavior

About this Research Topic

During the 1990s and into the 2000s, research in city planning, urban policy, and transportation addressed the question of how the built environment influences travel behavior. A consensus emerged that there is a strong correlation between various urbanity variables and different measures of transportation demand. Correlation, however, is not causation, and these studies typically neglected that people tend to settle in neighborhoods based on their transportation preferences. A subsequent wave of research in the late 1990s and early 2000s accounted for biases arising from endogeneity and self-selection These studies, which mostly focused on the North American context, led to a more mixed picture of the causal effect of the built environment on travel behavior, one that suggested a weaker relation than previously thought. There has been very little research on this topic in the last ten years.

In this Research Topic, we want to pick up where these earlier studies left off by building on their methodological insights and by tackling previously neglected topics. Most broadly, we would like to see research expanded to include more European and Asian cities, as well as cities in the developing world of Africa, the Middle East, Asia, and Latin America. Studies may also consider explicitly (intertemporal) decarbonization dynamics of transportation and urbanization, recognizing that such results will inform the modeling agenda of the climate change research community (e.g., the IPCC). We also would like to see more research on non-automotive modes, such as walking, biking, and public transit, as well as newer developments in travel behavior, with car and bike sharing, on-demand scooters, and Uber and Lyft. Last, as evidenced by the Yellow Vest protests that broke out in France this past summer, a critical cross-cutting issue is the interplay between price-based measures such as gasoline taxes and the built environment. Studies that examine differential effects of fuel price elasticities by location and the associated distributional implications are particularly welcome.


Keywords: Land Use, Urban Density and Form, Mode Choice, Transportation Demand, Automobile Ownership


Important Note: All contributions to this Research Topic must be within the scope of the section and journal to which they are submitted, as defined in their mission statements. Frontiers reserves the right to guide an out-of-scope manuscript to a more suitable section or journal at any stage of peer review.

During the 1990s and into the 2000s, research in city planning, urban policy, and transportation addressed the question of how the built environment influences travel behavior. A consensus emerged that there is a strong correlation between various urbanity variables and different measures of transportation demand. Correlation, however, is not causation, and these studies typically neglected that people tend to settle in neighborhoods based on their transportation preferences. A subsequent wave of research in the late 1990s and early 2000s accounted for biases arising from endogeneity and self-selection These studies, which mostly focused on the North American context, led to a more mixed picture of the causal effect of the built environment on travel behavior, one that suggested a weaker relation than previously thought. There has been very little research on this topic in the last ten years.

In this Research Topic, we want to pick up where these earlier studies left off by building on their methodological insights and by tackling previously neglected topics. Most broadly, we would like to see research expanded to include more European and Asian cities, as well as cities in the developing world of Africa, the Middle East, Asia, and Latin America. Studies may also consider explicitly (intertemporal) decarbonization dynamics of transportation and urbanization, recognizing that such results will inform the modeling agenda of the climate change research community (e.g., the IPCC). We also would like to see more research on non-automotive modes, such as walking, biking, and public transit, as well as newer developments in travel behavior, with car and bike sharing, on-demand scooters, and Uber and Lyft. Last, as evidenced by the Yellow Vest protests that broke out in France this past summer, a critical cross-cutting issue is the interplay between price-based measures such as gasoline taxes and the built environment. Studies that examine differential effects of fuel price elasticities by location and the associated distributional implications are particularly welcome.


Keywords: Land Use, Urban Density and Form, Mode Choice, Transportation Demand, Automobile Ownership


Important Note: All contributions to this Research Topic must be within the scope of the section and journal to which they are submitted, as defined in their mission statements. Frontiers reserves the right to guide an out-of-scope manuscript to a more suitable section or journal at any stage of peer review.

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Submission Deadlines

27 November 2020 Manuscript

Participating Journals

Manuscripts can be submitted to this Research Topic via the following journals:

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Topic Editors

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Submission Deadlines

27 November 2020 Manuscript

Participating Journals

Manuscripts can be submitted to this Research Topic via the following journals:

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