Understanding the Impact of Housing Costs in California on Commute Length in Terms of Travel Time and Distance

Research Lead: Jean-Daniel Saphores

UC Campus(es): UC Irvine

Problem Statement: Concerns about the environmental impacts of transportation have turned reducing vehicle-miles traveled (VMT) into a policy priority. One way to decrease VMT is to reduce the length of commuting trips. Unfortunately, the average U.S. commute keeps getting longer. Prior research has investigated the determinants of commuting, but few have analyzed the linkage between housing costs and the length of commuting. This problem is especially salient in California given the state’s perennial housing shortage and the high costs of housing, which have forced many lower- and middle-class households to move inland in search of more affordable housing at the cost of longer commutes. Most of those commuting trips are by car.

Project Description: To investigate this linkage, the team relied on Generalized Structural Equation Modeling and analyzed 2012 CHTS data for Los Angeles County – the most populous county in the U.S. Their model, which jointly explains commuting distance and time, accounts for residential self-selection and car use endogeneity, while controlling for household characteristics and land use around residences and workplaces. Better understanding the determinants of commuting is critical to inform housing and transportation policy, improve the health of commuters, reduce air pollution, and achieve climate goals.

Status: Completed

Budget: $65,647