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Presentation at the Association of American Geographers' annual meeting, April 9-13, Los Angeles, CA. Session: Cities, Transportation and Sustainability.
As environmental impacts from automobiles have grown, more research is needed to determine what social and policy forces can influence transportation ecoefficiency (TE). TE is the environmental impact per unit of travel, including accessibility and mobility, and it is measured by proxy as the index of four z-scores: percent drive-alone commuting (sign reversed); percent commuting by public transit; percent of commuters walking or riding a bicycle; and population density. A higher TE index indicates more ecoefficient transportation, compared to the average. This study presents a macro-level analysis of institutional and structural predictors of TE in a sample of 225 United States Metropolitan Statistical Areas. Specifically, Ordinary Least Squares regression with robust standard errors points to several conclusions. A New Political Culture, measured by education and income (real per capita income and % change in real per capita income) increases TE, although professional status could reverse this effect. High and rising incomes interact to increase TE, with an effect size over 10 times larger than other effects. State-mandated urban growth management increases TE, demonstrating the beneficial effects of comprehensive planning. This is enhanced by higher incomes, and the combination of high incomes and state-mandated planning also has an effect size over 10 times larger than other effects. Percent African American has a quadratic influence, presumably due to the effects of tolerance and racial threat. Overall, this analysis demonstrates that macro-level social processes, including race, comprehensive planning, and the presence of a new political culture, have a significant impact on TE.