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Research Project

Housing-Transportation Cost Trade-off Implications for Urban Sprawl

The purpose of this report is to examine the transportation costs of sprawling places in the context of the housing-transportation cost trade-off. The line of reasoning within this study stems from the housing-transportation trade-off. The proposition is that households have a portion of their budget that they allocate to the sum of housing and transportation costs.

Principal Investigator
Sööt, Siim
Research Area(s)
Data Development
Funding Source
Metropolitan Transportation Support Initiative (METSI)


Conventional wisdom suggests that as urban areas sprawl, transportation costs and travel times increase.  When urban areas expand in territory, densities commonly decrease and land uses are spread over a larger area.  This has an effect on travel behavior and particularly mode choice. Questions remain, however, on the effect of low densities on travel time.  In low density areas, low congestion levels may lead to higher travel speeds that counteract shorter distances in high-density neighborhoods.  Travelers may also adjust their behavior by chaining more destinations together, resulting in more efficient travel and thereby decreasing overall travel time (Sen, 1998). More importantly, the consequence of travel behavior in high versus low density communities on the household budget is a fundamental question that deserves periodic re-examination.  In low density areas, residents may not spend any more time on travel but their out-of-pocket costs may be higher.  This may be attributed to the fact that on average they have more household vehicles than residents of high-density communities.  In low density neighborhoods, residents may also enjoy lower homeownership costs and therefore have more discretionary resources to direct toward travel and vehicle acquisition. Download the "Housing-Transportation Cost Trade-off Implications for Urban Sprawl" report.