Does the Built Environment Affect the Utility of Walking? A Case of Path Choice in Downtown Boston.
There is a lack of consensus as to whether the relationship between the built environment and travel is causal and, if it is, the extent of this causality. This problem is largely caused by inappropriate research designs adopted in many studies. This paper proposes a new method (based on path choice) to investigate the causal effect of the pedestrian environment on the utility of walking. Specifically, the paper examines how the pedestrian environment affects subway commuters' egress path choice from a station to their workplaces in downtown Boston. The path-based measure is sensitive enough to capture minor differences in the environment experienced by pedestrians. More importantly, path
choice is less likely to correlate with job and housing location choices, and therefore largely avoids the self-selection problem. The results suggest that the pedestrian environment can significantly affect a person's walking experience and the utility of walking along a path.