Enhanced Analysis and Visualization of Denver-Metro, and Atlanta-Metro Areas: Detailed Megapolitan Area Mapping (Phases 2, 3)

Research Sponsor:

Toyota Research Institute—North America

TEMA, Ann Arbor, Michigan (TRI-NA)

Principal Investigators:

Alan M. Berger

Research Team:

Casey L. Brown


Over the last decade, the west and south of the U.S. has seen substantial growth as the country has grown increasingly metropolitan. This metropolitan growth, however, has been polycentric, with multiple focal centers (rather than singular points of very high population density). Overall national population density has also decreased, with the majority of the population now living in suburban and exurban areas. Current policies and spending reinforce these trends toward deconcentration nationwide. Congestion, unsurprisingly perhaps, is rising, although vehicle miles traveled have recently dropped slightly, but may rebound going forward.

The second and third phases of research proposed will identify the key drivers of these documented trends in mobility and land use—nationwide, and also specifically in fast-growing megapolitan regions with a focus on Denver, Colorado and Atlanta, Georgia metros (two distinct regions). A range of potential drivers will be evaluated including economic variables, geographic variables, individual preferences, and policy interventions. The types of questions to be addressed include the following: What are the leading determinants of an individual’s location and transit choice? Will exurban expansion be controlled or continue to expand, and what effect will this have on transportation patterns? How do local policies, from land use regulations to new infrastructure to pricing schemes, alter congestion, transit, and location choices? What are the trends in transportation planning among policymakers in the west and southeast as compared to elsewhere in the country, such as the Sunbelt and Midwest? What mobility options do they choose and desire for the future? How do choices and perceptions of mobility options vary across different subgroups of the population?

We propose a retrospective lit-research study to systematically and rigorously integrate findings across a range of disciplines, including policy studies, economics, geography, political science, planning, and to a lesser extent, psychology. This project will be composed of two systematic appraisals of drivers of land use and mobility patterns: first, at a national scale, and second, at the level of the municipality. Three deliverables will be performed: 1) taxonomy, 2) database, 3) meta-regression analysis. The major deliverable (#3) will be the meta-regression analysis on determinants of vehicle miles traveled.

Detailed aerial photography of focus areas of Greater Denver Metro area will be taken along with enhanced visualizations (e.g. mapping) of urbanization and transportation trends of Greater Denver Metro area, integrating current and new maps with photography. Summary to compare and contrast urbanization trends in Denver and Atlanta megapolitan area studies, and contrast transportation/mobility trends in Denver and Atlanta megapolitan area studies.

(Internal publication, 2011-12)

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