Car Ownership and the Built Environment: A Spatial Modeling Approach

Car ownership is linked to higher car use, which leads to important environmental, social and health consequences. As car ownership keeps increasing in most countries, it remains relevant to examine what factors and policies can help contain this growth. This paper uses an advanced spatial econometric modeling framework to investigate spatial dependences in household car ownership rates measured at fine geographical scales using administrative data of registered vehicles and census data of household counts for the Island of Montreal, Canada. The use of a finer level of spatial resolution allows for the use of more explanatory variables than previous aggregate models of car ownership. Theoretical considerations and formal testing suggested the choice of the Spatial Durbin Error Model (SDEM) as an appropriate modeling option. The final model specification includes sociodemographic and built environment variables supported by theory and achieves a Nagelkerke pseudo-R² of 0.93. Despite the inclusion of those variables the spatial linear models with and without lagged explanatory variables still exhibit residual spatial dependence. This indicates the presence of unobserved autocorrelated factors influencing car ownership rates. Model results indicate that sociodemographic variables explain much of the variance, but that built environment characteristics, including transit level of service and local commercial accessibility (e.g., to grocery stores) are strongly and negatively associated with neighborhood car ownership rates. Comparison of estimates between the SDEM and a non-spatial model indicates that failing to control for spatial dependence leads to an overestimation of the strength of the direct influence of built environment variables.


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  • Accession Number: 01786445
  • Record Type: Publication
  • Files: TRIS, TRB, ATRI
  • Created Date: Oct 22 2021 3:17PM