Urban morphology and traffic congestion: Longitudinal evidence from US cities


Traffic congestion is an ever-increasing issue across urban environments in the US. One potential mitigation strategy is to improve our understanding of how the geographical patterns of urban land use influence congestion. Unfortunately, there is no consensus regarding if more sprawling or dense urban morphologies help mitigate congestion issues. To potentially clarify the conflicting findings of previous studies, we used a detailed spatial metric-based approach and panel regression to quantify the relationships between urban development patterns and congestion in 98 US urban areas from 2001 to 2011. We found that the abundance and spatial configuration of urban land uses were correlated with traffic congestion. Specifically, high degrees of polycentricity for both high-intensity and low-intensity urban land uses were associated with more congestion, while contiguous residential development was correlated with less congestion. Important distinctions were also observed between different congestion measures, as urban morphology exhibited a more substantial influence on overall congestion than rush-hour congestion. Our findings can potentially inform future land use planning by clarifying which urban morphologies alleviate traffic congestion issues.

Computers, Environment and Urban Systems, 89, 101676