PSU Transportation Seminar: Explore Regional Variation in the Effects of Built Environment on Driving with High Resolution U.S. Nationwide Data

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Thursday, May 4, 2023, 12:00pm to 1:00pm PDT
Liming Wang, Portland State University
ONLINE and IN-PERSON: Smith Memorial Student Union (SMSU) 1825 SW Broadway, Room 327
PDH: 1 | AICP: 1

Transportation Seminars at Portland State University have been a tradition since 2000. Formerly known as the Friday Transportation Seminar series, we've opened up PSU Transportation Seminars to other days of the week to better accommodate attendance. You can always watch online via Zoom.



There have been numerous studies on the relationship between travel behavior and built environment over the last few decades. Prior studies have mostly focused on producing point estimates of model coefficients and ended up with a wide range of estimates for the built environment elasticity of travel behavior, including household Vehicle Miles Traveled. With few exceptions, previous studies use data from a single region or a small number of regions, and thus are not able to sufficiently investigate the regional variation in built environment elasticity.

On the other hand, a few papers have addressed the heterogeneity of elasticity among different population groups and neighborhood types, but so far have paid little attention to regional variation of elasticity. In his latest research project, Liming Wang uses the 2009 U.S. National Household Travel Survey and high resolution built environment measures in the Smart Location Database to investigate the Urbanized Area-level variation in the effect of built environment with multi-level mixed effect models. He found that there exist regional variations in the relationship between built environment and household VMT, and, as a matter of fact, there is no significant fixed effect of major built environment factors on VMT after considering urbanized area-level random effect. This presentation will conclude with a discussion of the implications of this research.


  • The study found that there is variation at the Urbanized Area-level in the relationship between built environment and household Vehicle Miles Traveled (VMT).
  • The study highlights the limitations of previous research, which often relied on data from a single region and produced point estimates of the effect of built environment on travel behavior.
  • The existence of regional variation in the effects of built environment on travel behavior poses a challenge to our understanding of the relationship, but also suggests opportunities for targeted policies.


Liming Wang, Portland State University

Liming Wang is an assistant professor in PSU's Toulan School of Urban Studies & Planning. He teaches courses in Travel Demand Modeling, Transportation and Land Use, and Data Analysis Methods. His research takes a data-driven approach to address challenging issues in planning, in particular those intersecting land use and transportation. His recent research projects include data integration techniques for transportation and land use modeling, development and evaluation of comprehensive performance measures for transportation and land use systems, and regional strategic planning tools. Dr. Wang has conducted research on Continuous Data Integration for Land Use and Transportation Planning and Modeling, Evaluating and Enhancing Public Transit Systems for Operational Efficiency, Service Quality and Access Equity, and the development of a data science course, Introduction to Scientific Computing for Planners, Engineers, and Scientists.


This 60-minute seminar is eligible for 1 hour of professional development credit for AICP (see our provider summary). We can provide an electronic attendance certificate for other types of certification maintenance.


Photo courtesy of Portland Bureau of Transportation (PBOT)

Portland State University's Transportation Research and Education Center (TREC) is home to the U.S. DOT funded National Institute for Transportation and Communities (NITC), the Initiative for Bicycle and Pedestrian Innovation (IBPI), PORTAL, BikePed Portal and other transportation grants and programs. We produce impactful research and tools for transportation decision makers, expand the diversity and capacity of the workforce, and engage students and professionals through education and participation in research.