J.P. Zhou, Yin Wang and me on jobs/housing balance in Transport Policy

Jobs/housing balance and employer-based travel demand management program returns to scale: Evidence from Los Angeles

From the abstract:

Research on environmental justice and social inclusion suggests that high-income wage earners may have better job access due to their greater choices in both housing and transportation markets. This study compares the jobs/housing balance and mode choice of different groups of employees of a large employer (27,113 employees) and those of the “reference groups” from comparable employees working for smaller employers in Los Angeles. Based on spatial and statistical analyses, this paper finds the following:

a) Across all employee groups, a better jobs/housing balance was accompanied by higher income, as was likelihood to patronize Travel Demand Management (TDM) programs.
b) Employees from the large employer had more options for carpooling and thus drove alone less, even after controlling overall housing stock, residential location, annual income, and/or commute time.
c) Across all employee groups, good jobs/housing balance did not necessarily bring about green mode choice.
d) Comprehensive TDM measures by the large employer significantly reduced employees’ dependence on driving, even in a region where autocommuting dominates. However, these measures were costly to implement.
e) Different employee groups favor different TDM programs, and the patterns are marked by income.
The above findings suggest that shared or consolidated TDM and housing programs, which pool smaller employers, might better promote green mode choice. Participating employers may also negotiate better deals for program implementation when these programs involve third-party transit agencies and contractors.

The discussion on elders in transport continues

Ed Stevens made such a great comment that I wanted to highlight it:

My own parents retired in place. They paid off the home where my 3 brothers and I were raised. While they might not necessarily still need a 5 bedroom home in there 70′s they also have no desire to move. They were also able to come up with new uses for some of the space. My childhood bedroom was converted into an office. Another of my brothers childhood bedroom was converted into the craft/computer room. The other two boys childhood bedrooms became guest bedrooms. When I ask them why they stay they say they know and like their neighbors. If they moved somewhere else they would need to make new friends and my mom fears that as they have get older that might be difficult. For similar reasons my parents don’t want to attend a different church or find new places to shop. While the current furniture is dated, it matches the house that also hasn’t been updated significantly from the 1970′s. Lastly the large house provides plenty of room for the kids and grandchildren to sleep when we go to visit them.

There is a great deal of wisdom in this comment. There comes a point in your life when you do wish to stay put–for a variety of perfectly understandable reasons.

The main reason why I think all bets are off with seniors and travel

I routinely hear arguments that the “greying of America” will mean that seniors will abandon their bad, auto-oriented, suburban lifestyle in favor of moving to walkable, transit-oriented urban communities. Or, at least, that we should provide them with the option of doing so by changing the supply of available housing to include more of the latter. I think that last argument–the ‘should’ argument–is actually the more compelling argument.

Anyway, the main reason I think all bets are off: the recession, the loss of home asset values, troubled pensions, and the fact that social security is in the political hotseat likely mean that, unlike the economically secure, comfortable cohorts of seniors we have seen in previous generations, this generation of seniors has had one economic threat after another roll in.

In terms of theorizing, that economic instability could mean anything, but it likely means staying in the workforce longer. I suspect that older workers are less job mobile than younger workers, so that means staying in their location, which means moving within region if they move at all–which doesn’t strike me as likely as moves can be expensive–while they hold onto jobs later. If they are not underwater with their homes, they may be unwilling to take a nominal hit on their major asset, their homes, and thus they hold onto the house rather than move.

I can tell you a different story, too, where the outcomes are different. Because they need to stay in the workforce longer but don’t have the same demand for space, they give up the house as they are no longer physically able to do the job and the house, and they trade that for a much cheaper condo closer to work and transit.

This moment in history, despite all its allusions to the Great Depression, isn’t like others. I just don’t think we have good priors.

In which epidemiologists tell us what we already knew

I’m on the editorial board of Transportation Research Part A, and it’s an excellent journal by any measure. But one article this morning seemed so promising, and then rather failed to deliver:

Graham-Rowe, E., Skippon, S., Gardner, B. & Abraham, C., 2011, Can we reduce car use and, if so, how? A review of available evidence, Transportation Research Part A: Policy and Practice.

Great, right? Another review, and we probably needed another review after this inappropriately optimistic one appeared in JAPA last year:

Ewing, R. & Cervero, R., 2010, Travel and the built environment, Journal of the American Planning Association, 76(3).

The latter review was problematic because it summarized the evidence and then concluded “Yes, well, all the empirical evidence shows small effect and insignificant effect sizes, but we still think our interventions work under the right conditions.”

There comes a point where you have to wonder if those right conditions are feasible if the research can’t find them time and time again.

However, Graham-Rowe sort studies according to quality, stating what’s obvious to everybody: there aren’t enough randomized trials in applied social science research.

Gee, ya think?

There’s a reason why the high quality studies are looking at program evaluations and why the cross-sectional studies look at before and after projects. Unlike medical and psychological research, researchers in my world don’t get to randomly select controls for anything other than programs, and often not even then because there are practical problems with employers or city governments allowing some employees or residents–but not others–to participate in a program that carries a benefit, like being paid not to drive.

So undeniably, we’d have better research if I could select random samples and controls for selected interventions, use our godlike hands to pick drivers up by their heads, place them in case-control groups according to intervention versus non-intervention environments or programs, and make them live there/participate as long as we wanted them to. Unfortunately, doing that sort of thing in societies where human beings have freedom of movement and self determination tends to be frowned on.

The takeaway–AGAIN–is that self-selection and endogeniety go hand and hand. Gargh.

I don’t see a path out of this cycle of research-critique. We’ve hit a stalemate. People who are advocates of particular position–that mixed land uses and transit supply reduce auto use–are like Fox Mulder: “I want to believe.”

Social scientists can try to tinker on the margins of what we have, with instrumental variables and various econometric contraptions strapped on to different datasets, but there’s no way around the residential self-selection problems here.

We can publish critique after critique, and perhaps that’s useful, but I don’t see how. We know where we are with this research–and we also know that planning, policy, and forecasts are thundering ahead with the “I want to believe” attitude. The alternatives to believing aren’t particularly attractive, either.

Sad news for travel behavior research

This is very sad news for the world of travel behavior research.

Invitation to Symposium Celebrating the Life and Work of Ryuichi Kitamura

Dear Colleagues and Friends:

We were all grieved at the untimely passing of Ryuichi Kitamura in February, and continue to mourn the loss, not only of a brilliant and creative scholar, but a generous mentor and treasured friend. The University of California at Davis (where he spent the first 15 years of his professorial career) and Kyoto University (where he spent the second 15+ years) are joining together to sponsor a symposium in Ryuichi’s honor, aptly titled “The Joy of the Journey: Celebrating the Life and Work of Ryuichi Kitamura”. The planning committee hopes you can join the symposium gathering on this poignant occasion.

This symposium will be held June 29-30, 2009, on the UC Davis campus. There will be a reception the evening of June 28, and an optional excursion is planned to Napa Valley on July 1. The symposium itself will fill both days of June 29-30, with a banquet on the night of June 30 at which Ryuichi’s family will be present. The banquet will feature an “open microphone” period during which attendees will have an opportunity to share stories of Ryuichi, recount memories, offer condolences to the family, and speak of his influence on their work and the profession at large.

Complete details about the symposium, including the program/agenda, online registration procedures, and hotel accommodation information, are now available at the website that UC Davis has established for this symposium and to commemorate Ryuichi. Please check the website frequently for updates and further information.

Thank you very much and we look forward to seeing you in Davis to celebrate the life and work of Ryuichi Kitamura.

Planning Committee:
Patricia Mokhtarian, UC Davis, Chair,
Cynthia Chen, City College of New York,
Satoshi Fujii, Kyoto University,
Kostas Goulias, University of California, Santa Barbara,
Akira Kikuchi, Kyoto University,
Hani Mahmassani, Northwestern University,
Ram Pendyala, Arizona State University,
Owen Waygood, Kyoto University,
Toshiyuki Yamamoto, Nagoya University,
Toshio Yoshii, Kyoto University,