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.
Neighborhood crimes; Travel behavior; Mode choice
Christopher Ferrell, Shishir Mathur, Justin Meek, and Matthew Piven. "Neighborhood Crime and Travel Behavior: An Investigation of the Influence of Neighborhood Crime Rates on Mode Choice – Phase II, MTI Report 11-04" Mineta Transportation Institute Publications (2012).