Kaid Benfield  |  bettercities.net

New research from Southern California has found that residents of neighborhoods with a central core of shops and services – a pattern typically found in older, traditional communities – walk nearly three times more often than do residents of neighborhoods whose nearest shops and services lie along a major arterial roadway – a pattern typically found in newer suburban development. Residents of traditionally styled and centered neighborhoods also drive less than their counterparts residing in the newer pattern.

This is true even when the data are controlled for individual and household economic and demographic characteristics. The study was led by Marlon Boarnet of the University of California at Irvine, assisted by several other researchers from southern California, Texas A&M, and UNC-Chapel Hill. It is published in the Fall 2011 issue of Access, the magazine of the University of California Transportation Center.

Notably, the residents of the centered neighborhoods were found to take shorter trips, suggesting that walkable proximity – both closeness and a safe, direct walking route – to shops and services is also important. It may not do much to encourage walking, for example, if the dry cleaner’s is a quarter mile away as the crow flies but you have to travel two or three times that far navigating busy roads around the subdivision to get there. {…}