The Social Dynamics of Accessibility, Travel Behavior, and Physical Activity: An Inner-City/Suburb Comparison in the Detroit Region -- collage of detroit areas
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About the Project

The research objectives are to build and explore measures of accessibility, isolate the role of income, race, age and gender in conditioning accessibility, quantify pedestrian activity, and examine potential associations with physical activity and obesity theoretically integrated under complex systems, urban design, and social structures. The general hypothesis is that:

neighborhood structure is a precondition in defining individual and community activity patterns. Social class, race, along with the sense of value of personal well-being, are key determinants of travel behavior.

The team will gather data from six two-mile square neighborhoods in the Detroit Region. Surveys, approved through the IRB process and tested in a Lansing pilot study, will be mailed to 1600 households in the two inner-city Detroit neighborhoods and 800 households in four suburban Detroit neighborhoods. This will enable the research team to focus on urban form, travel behavior, physical activity, and obesity within the context of diverse socioeconomic conditions and race/ethnic populations. View Detroit sites where data collection takes place.

Specific objectives involve:

  • Measuring neighborhood accessibility and quantifying functional differences for the neighborhoods
  • Exploring how perceptions of travel behavior vary by income, race, age, and gender
  • Exploring travel differences among the inner-city Detroit residents compared to residents in Birmingham, Ann Arbor, Bloomfield and West Bloomfield
  • Exploring the association between obesity and accessibility
  • Exploring travel behavior across neighborhoods as modified by neighborhood structures and connectivity
  • Exploring urban structural modifiers of behavior including system feedbacks, thresholds, and dynamics in a complex systems simulation framework

Statistical methods of relevance include dummy variable and polynomial regression, location-allocation models, discriminant analysis, and multinomial logit models. A dynamic spatial simulation-modeling environment will be employed to characterize, link, and model structural determinants, feedback systems, thresholds, and individual, household, and community behaviors.

Learn more about the project:

Project Highlight:

Building Walkable Communities Story Image Building Walkable Communities Story Image - Model by Anthony Knapp and Blake Scheller for the City of Eastpointe Building Walkable Communities Story Image - Model by Jonathon Archer and Emily Hunter for Meridian Township
Article on NSF project in Engaged Scholar Magazine

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This research is supported by National Science Foundation Grant SES 0624263.NSF logo