The effect of compact development on travel behavior, energy consumption and GHG emissions in Phoenix metropolitan area
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Suburban growth in the U.S. urban regions has been defined by large subdivisions of single-family detached units. This growth is made possible by the mobility supported by automobiles and an extensive highway network. These dispersed and highly automobile-dependent developments have generated a large body of work examining the socioeconomic and environmental impacts of suburban growth on cities. The particular debate that this study addresses is whether suburban residents are more energy intensive in their travel behavior than central city residents. If indeed suburban residents have needs that are not satisfied by the amenities around them, they may be traveling farther to access such services. However, if suburbs are becoming like cities with a wide range of services and amenities, travel might be contained and no different from the travel behavior of residents in central areas. This paper will compare the effects of long term suburban growth on travel behavior, energy consumption, and GHG emissions through a case study of neighborhoods in central Phoenix and the city of Gilbert, both in the Phoenix metropolitan region. Motorized travel patterns in these study areas will be generated using 2001 and 2009 National Household Travel Survey (NHTS) data by developing a four-step transportation demand model in TransCAD. Energy consumption and GHG emissions, including both Carbon Dioxide (CO₂) and Nitrous Oxide (N₂O) for each study area will be estimated based on the corresponding trip distribution results. The final normalized outcomes will not only be compared spatially between Phoenix and Gilbert within the same year, but also temporally between years 2001 and 2009 to determine how the differential land use changes in those places influenced travel. The results from this study reveal that suburban growth does have an impact on people's travel behaviors. As suburbs grew and diversified, the difference in travel behavior between people living in suburban and urban areas became smaller. In the case of shopping trips the average length of trips for suburban residents in 2009 was slightly shorter than that for central city residents. This convergence was substantially due to the faster growth in trip lengths for central city compared to suburban residents in the 8-year period. However, suburban residents continue to be more energy intensive in their travel behavior, as the effect of reduction in trip length is likely to be offset by the more intensive growth in trip frequency. Additionally, overall energy consumption has grown significantly in both study areas over the period of study.