follow this link to download a copy of my masters thesis defense presentation which was given 4 december 2009 at ubc’s institute for resources, environment and sustainability. the research’s abstract is as follows …
This thesis summarizes efforts to isolate and quantify fundamental relationships among built environment characteristics, activity patterns and vehicle use in order to assess their relative influences on vehicle GHG emissions in the Metro Vancouver region of British Columbia, Canada. Activity-based structural equation models were specified in a cross-sectional study design using local travel survey data and highly detailed urban form data. This approach yielded two benefits. First, structural equation analysis permitted explicit modeling of the indirect effects between built environment variables and vehicle emissions as mediated through activity patterns and vehicle use. Second, modeling travel at the activity-tour level allowed for a deeper understanding of the relative contributions of local and regional built environment variables is explaining tour complexity, vehicle use and emissions. Controlling for pertinent socio-economic and demographic variables, standardized parameter coefficients show the built environment to be a significantly strong predictor of vehicle-related GHG emissions across all models, although the strength and magnitude of these effects is demonstrated to vary by activity tour type. The local built environment is a stronger predictor of vehicle use and related emissions for non-work/school tours, while regional accessibility measures yielded larger effects on the carbon-intensity of work and school tours. Vehicle accessibility yielded consistently significant and large effects on vehicle use and emissions across all models. Findings suggest that policy directions beyond promoting more compact, walkable and regionally connected development to curb emissions are required. Additional strategies may include those that address vehicle use in a more direct manner, including higher taxation, insurance or parking fees. Future research would benefit by incorporating travel and residential preferences to control for self-selection, assessing the affect of the work and school built environment on activity patterns and undertaking a more holistic assessment of the links between the built environment and total household emissions and energy use (including building, transportation, etc).
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Last night, I had the chance to speak at a ubc alumni event entitled “Is there a light at the end of the tunnel: solutions to Surrey’s transportation quagmire.” The event was a panel discussion where myself, along with Mr. Clark Lim, a former transportation planer with TransLink and current PhD student at UBC, fielded questions and comments about both surrey’s and the larger fraser valley’s transportation woes. We had a great turn out of around 60 people who were very engaged and excited to talk about the subject (always a great thing to see).
At the onset I was able to give a brief overview of some of the local transportation research coming out of UBC. I touched on the idea that many of our transportation problems are the product of our daily travel behaviour which, in turn, is directly influenced by the way we plan and built our town and cities.I highlighted some key findings of recent research coming out of UBC that has explored the link between land use and travel patterns, physical activity and travel-related emissions. Of note:
- Adults living in the top 25% most walkable areas in Metro Vancouver were between 2 and 3 times more likely to walk or take transit for any home-based trip compared to those in the least walkable neighbourhoods;
- Adults living in the top 25% most walkable neighbourhoods drive approximately 58% less than those in more auto-oriented areas;
- Residents living in the top 25% most walkable areas in Metro Vancouver and Greater Victoria were half as likely to be overweight than those in the least walkable neighbourhoods;
- Persons who felt they had many shops within easy walking distance were more than twice as likely to meet recommended physical activity requirements compared with those who did not.
The first two points are from a study entitled “Active Transportation Benefits of Walkable Approaches to Community Design in Metro Vancouver” which was completed by myself and Dr. Lawrence Frank with funding from the BC Recreation and Parks Association. The last two findings are found in “Promoting Physical Activity through Healthy Community Design,” a study funded by the Vancouver Foundation and prepared by Dr. Frank, Megan Winters, Brian Patterson and Cora Craig.
This work and others like it are helping to shape a local evidence base that supports the notion that encouraging less driving and increasing alternative forms of travel starts with planning and building places that make walking attractive, convenient and appropriate.