Neighborhood design and vehicle type choice: Evidence from Northern California

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

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

57 Scopus citations


Previous studies have found that suburban development is associated with the unbalanced choice of light duty trucks. The specific aspects of the built environment that influence vehicle choice, however, have not been well-established. Further, these studies have not shed much light on the underlying direction of causality: Whether neighborhood designs themselves, as opposed to preferences for neighborhood characteristics or attitudes towards travel, more strongly influence individuals' decisions regarding vehicle type. Using a sample from Northern California, this study investigated the relationship between neighborhood design and vehicle type choice, controlling for residential self-selection. Correlation analyses showed that neighborhood design has a strong association with vehicle type choice. Specifically, traditional neighborhood designs are correlated with the choice of passenger cars, while suburban designs are associated with the choice of light duty trucks. The nested logit model suggests that sociodemographic and attitudinal factors play an important role, and that an outdoor spaciousness measure (based on perceptions of yard sizes and off-street parking availability) and commute distance also impact vehicle type choice after controlling for those other influences. This study, therefore, supports the premise that land use policies have at least some potential to reduce the choice of light duty trucks, thereby reducing emissions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)133-145
Number of pages13
JournalTransportation Research Part D: Transport and Environment
Issue number2
StatePublished - Mar 2006
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This research was conducted under a project funded by the California Department of Transportation and was supported by grants from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the University of California Transportation Center. Thanks to Ted Buehler, Gustavo Collantes, and Sam Shelton for their work on the implementation of the survey. We thank WenChao Huang for his help on vehicle type classifications. Advice from two anonymous referees was helpful in improving this paper.


  • Air quality
  • Land use
  • Nested logit model
  • Smart growth

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