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Categorizing Urban Form for the Largest Metro Regions in the U.S. Using the Excessive Commuting Framework

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The degree to which U.S. cities, metro regions, and general urbanized areas have distinct centres of economic activity has been a matter of debate for many decades. In the jobs–housing literature, there is related debate about whether having many distinct mixed-use centres in cities leads to longer or shorter commutes. The excess commuting framework has been increasingly refined and applied to assess urban areas' jobs–housing balance. The framework has expanded over the years but an issue in the present research is whether its various theoretical measurements and efficiency calculations might be used to assess the degree of poly- or mono-centricity of a region, thereby contributing to debates about what kind of urban form facilitates shorter commutes. In this paper, a suite of excess commuting (EC) measures are calculated for fifty-three of the largest Metropolitan Statistical Areas (MSAs) in the U.S. From there a hierarchical clustering approach is developed and applied to demonstrate which of these metrics are most useful in describing urban form. We examine how these metrics perform for particular built environments, which gives further insights into commuting and land use trends. Results of the research show how various urban forms have specific commuting outcomes: specifically, that polycentric urban forms have shorter average commute distances than sprawling ones. This should inform policy questions about the most effective land-use planning strategies to pursue in efforts to manage travel demand via built environment interventions.
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Keywords: EXCESS COMMUTING; METROPOLITAN STATISTICAL AREAS; MONOCENTRIC URBAN REGIONS; POLYCENTRIC URBAN REGIONS; SPRAWL

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: December 1, 2019

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  • Built Environment is published quarterly in March, June, September and December. With an emphasis on crossing disciplinary boundaries and providing global perspective, each issue focuses on a single subject of contemporary interest to practitioners, academics and students working in a wide range of disciplines. Issues are guest-edited by established international experts who not only commission contributions, but also oversee the peer-reviewing process in collaboration with the Editors.

    Subject areas include: architecture; conservation; economic development; environmental planning; health; housing; regeneration; social issues; spatial planning; sustainability; urban design; and transport. All issues include reviews of recent publications.

    The journal is abstracted in Geo Abstracts, Sage Urban Studies Abstracts, and Journal of Planning Literature, and is indexed in the Avery Index to Architectural Publications.

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