Neighborhood design and the accessibility of the elderly: An empirical analysis in Northern California

Xinyu Cao, Patricia L. Mokhtarian, Susan L. Handy

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    64 Scopus citations


    The low mobility of seniors may be due in part to a history of auto-oriented transportation and land use policy decisions. More recently, land use policies that make it possible to drive less show promise of effectiveness for the population as a whole. However, little attention has been paid to the implications of such policies for older people. Using data collected from Northern California in 2003, this study explores the ability of neighborhood design to preserve accessibility for the elderly by enabling a shift from driving to transit and walking, controlling for confounding factors. The results show that overall, older people drive less and use alternative modes more often than younger people. After controlling for attitudes and socio-demographics, neighborhood design has limited effects on driving and transit use, but enhancing accessibility tends to be a promising strategy for promoting walking trips. This enhanced accessibility has a much larger effect on the elderly than on the younger. Therefore, neighborhood design seems to be an important aspect of sustaining the accessibility of older people.

    Original languageEnglish (US)
    Pages (from-to)347-371
    Number of pages25
    JournalInternational Journal of Sustainable Transportation
    Issue number6
    StatePublished - Nov 2010

    Bibliographical note

    Funding Information:
    The data collection was funded by the UC Davis-Caltrans Air Quality Project, the University of California Transportation Center, and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. Thanks to Ted Buehler, Gustavo Collantes, and Sam Shelton for their work on the implementation of the survey. The analysis was supported by the Small Urban & Rural Transit Center, North Dakota State University. Comments by three anonymous reviewers improved this paper.


    • Aging
    • Built environment
    • Elderly
    • Land use
    • Self-selection
    • Seniors
    • Travel behavior


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