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Shopping And Vehicle Miles Traveled: Closer Is Better

A California study of shopping behavior and its impact on vehicle miles traveled before and after the arrival of a community's first big-box store has been added to the Resource Center best practices database.

Originally published in the May 2013 issue of The Journal of Transport and Land Use, "Measuring the impacts of local land-use policies on vehicle miles of travel: The case of the first big-box store in Davis, California" found that bringing a Target store into the community caused a significant reduction in the vehicle miles traveled.

"The context in this case is Davis, a city of 65,000 people where the only big-box options had previously been 10 to 15 miles away," the researchers noted. "Our results show that trips to the new Target mostly displaced vehicle trips to stores either outside of downtown or outside of Davis, rather than walking and biking trips to down­town, leading to a significant and sizable reduction in VMT: 18.9 miles per month per adult age 25 or older, totaling over 7.5 million miles of VMT per year, resulting in a reduction of over 2800 metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions."

Using what researchers described as a relatively simple before-and-after survey, they documented a shift in where, how often, and for what products people shopped at other locations, as well as a reduction in VMT to shop for the types of items carried by Target.

"We embarked on this before-and-after evaluation as a step toward improving the quality of the evidence on the effectiveness of land-use policies in reducing vehicle travel and associated greenhouse gas emissions," the researchers explain. "While this study illustrates some of the challenges inherent in measuring VMT, particularly the challenge of measuring respondents’ shopping travel through user-friendly instruments, it provides specific evidence of the impact of a change in the shopping environment on shopping-related travel in the particular context of the Target store in Davis."

Read the introduction and download the full article.