Neighborhood Crime and Travel Behavior: An Investigation of the Influence of Neighborhood Crime Rates on Mode Choice – Phase II

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Neighborhood Crime and Travel Behavior: An Investigation of the Influence of Neighborhood Crime Rates on Mode Choice – Phase II


There are considerable environmental and public health benefits if people choose to walk, bicycle, or ride transit, instead of drive. However, little work has been done on the effects of neighborhood crimes on mode choice. Instinctively, we understand that the threats posed by possible criminal activity in one’s neighborhood can play a major role in the decision to drive, take transit, walk or ride a bicycle, but so far little empirical evidence supports this notion, let alone guides public infrastructure investments, land use planning, or the allocation of police services. This report--describing Phase 2 of a research study conducted for the Mineta Transportation Institute on crime and travel behavior – finds that high crime neighborhoods tend to discourage residents from walking or riding a bicycle. When comparing a high crime to a lower crime neighborhood the odds of walking over choosing auto decrease by 17.25 percent for work trips and 61 percent for non-work trips. For transit access to work trips, the odds of choosing walk/bike to a transit station over auto decrease by 48.1 percent. Transit trips, on the other hand, are affected by neighborhood crime levels in a similar way to auto trips, wherein high crime neighborhoods appear to encourage transit mode choice. The odds of taking transit over choosing auto increase by 17.25 percent for work trips and 164 percent for non-work trips. Surprised by this last finding, the research team tested two possible explanations for why high levels of neighborhood crime would increase transit use: 1) the mode choice models do not adequately account for the effects and interplay between urban form and crime levels and mode choice; and 2) people who ride in cars or take transit may feel more protected when riding in a vehicle (termed here, the “neighborhood exposure hypothesis”). To investigate the first explanation, the researchers tested a number of alternative urban form and crime interaction variables to no effect. Digging deeper into the second hypothesis, the researchers tested whether the access portion of transit trips (walking, bicycling, or driving to a transit stop) is sensitive to neighborhood crimes as well, wherein high crime neighborhoods discourage walking and bicycling and encourage driving to transit stations. The report provides evidence that high crime neighborhoods encourage driving to transit stops and discourage walking or bicycling, lending support to the neighborhood exposure hypothesis.



Dr. Ferrell began his planning career in 1995 working for the Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC) on Intelligent Transportation System (ITS) applications for traffic management. Since 2000, he has worked as a transportation consultant and in 2010 he co-founded CFA Consultants, a transportation planning and research firm. Dr. Ferrell completed his doctoral studies in City and Regional Planning at the University of California at Berkeley in 2005. His studies focus on the relationships between transportation and land use. His research experience includes the evaluation of transit facilities, transportation policy analysis, transportation and land use interactions, travel behavior, and the analysis of institutional structures. As a practitioner, he has developed traffic impact studies for mixed-use, infill and transit-oriented projects, analyzed the impacts of specific and general plans and planned and implemented intelligent transportation systems, and developed bicycle and pedestrian plans. He recently completed TCRP Report 145—Reinventing the Urban Interstate: A New Paradigm for Multimodal Corridors. He has also taught several graduate planning classes in the San José State University Urban Planning Department and the University of California, Berkeley City and Regional Planning Department


Dr. Mathur is an Associate Professor of Urban and Regional Planning at San Jose State University. He obtained PhD (2003) in Urban Design & Planning from the University of Washington, Seattle, and Masters (1997) in Urban Planning from the School of Planning & Architecture, New Delhi, India. He has worked as an urban planner in the USA and India. His professional work in the USA includes research, teaching and consulting in the fields of urban economics, housing, public finance, growth management, land use planning, infrastructure planning, strategic planning, and systems analysis. In India he consulted in the fields of physical & land use planning, infrastructure finance, project management, architecture, and urban design. For a complete listing of his publications, see http://works.


Justin Meek teaches at San Jose State University (SJSU) in the Urban and Regional Planning Department and works as an independent consultant for municipalities throughout the San Francisco and Monterey Bay Areas. Justin is presently co-teaching a community assessment planning course at SJSU course. He is also providing planning services to the City of Pacific Grove and City of Marina. Justin serves on the local APA Section Board as its Administrative Director and sits on the SJSU Urban and Regional Planning Department Alumni Committee. Justin holds a Master of Urban Planning degree (2010) from San Jose State University where he was the recipient of the APA California Chapter Distinguished Leadership Award for a Student Planner and AICP Outstanding Graduating Student Award. Justin also has a Bachelor of Science degree in Earth Sciences (1999) and Bachelor of Arts degree in Environmental Studies (1999) from the University of California at Santa Cruz. He is a member of the American Institute of Certified Planners.


Matt is an urban planner interested in economic development. He holds a Master of Urban Planning degree with honors from San Jose State University, and a B.A. in Economics from Williams College. He has spent three years in public and private sector planning. In two consulting projects, Matt used a variety of metrics to assess the effectiveness of community development initiatives. His graduate thesis used GIS and quantitative modeling to explore the relationship between ethnolinguistic diversity and neighborhood revitalization. Matt benefited from working on this project with the Mineta Transportation Institute, as it expanded his ability to conduct spatial and statistical analysis and to work with neighborhood indicators.

January 2012
Neighborhood crimes
Travel behavior
Mode choice



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