Urban form, transit supply, and travel behavior in Mexico’s 100 largest urban areas

A new paper by Erick Guerra of the Stuart Weitzman School of Design and the Penn Institute for Urban Research (Penn IUR), and co-authors examines the relationship between urban form, transportation supply, and individuals’ mode choice across Mexico’s 100 largest urban areas, and predicts relationship between urban form, transit supply, and individual mode choice.

Between 1990 and 2010, Mexico’s largest 100 urban areas added 23 million new residents, a more than 50% increase. Nearly all of this new growth has been in densely populated suburban neighborhoods, comprised of informal housing or, more recently, large, dense, publicly subsidized, and peripherally located commercial housing developments. This shift in urban spatial structure has likely contributed to the rapid increase in vehicle fleets and vehicle travel in Mexico. 

Traffic jam in Mexico City

Despite the rapid growth in vehicle fleets, Mexico’s urban areas remain highly multimodal, with 49% of residents commuting to work by transit, 28% by car, and 23% by foot or bicycle.  As in other low- and middle-income countries, however, nearly all of Mexico’s recent and projected population and economic growth is now occurring outside of its largest cities. How smaller cities grow will help determine national car ownership levels, total vehicle travel, pollution levels, and traffic safety records.

Although there is a large and growing body of literature on the relationship between urban form and travel behavior, little evidence comes from Latin America and virtually none from smaller cities. 

Read more at Penn IUR.