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

Research Lead: Jean-Daniel Saphores

University: 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: The goal of this project is to quantify the extent to which high housing costs impacts the mileage and the duration of Californians who commute to work by motor vehicle. For that purpose, researchers will analyze commuting data from the 2012 California Household Travel Survey. As a starting point, the team will estimate generalized structural equation models to assess the impacts of socio- economic variables, vehicle ownership, land use, and housing costs on the mileage and duration of Californians’ commute. The starting hypothesis is that both the time and distance people commute in California are influenced by the cost of housing near employment centers, and to a lesser degree by the job-housing imbalance.

Status: In Progress

Budget: $65,647

Project Partner(s): California Transportation Agency via the Transportation and Housing Coordination Workgroup