Land Use and Transport Mode choices: Space Syntax Analysis of American Cities

Girmay Kifle Berhie, Saif Haq


Natural movement theory (from space syntax literature) postulates that configuration of the urban grid is an important generator of aggregate patterns of movement in urban areas (Hillier et al. 1993). In addition, movement economy theory asserts that retail and commercial activities migrate to configurationally hotspot locations to take advantage of the economic opportunities created by movement (Hillier 1996). These concentrations of retail and commercial activities are also the work places for a good number of people and in turn, will influence the choices of residential locations. Since journey-distance and time are two very important factors influencing transport mode choice, (Plaut 2005; Wardman, Tight, and Page 2007; Pucher and Dijkstra 2003; Schwanen and Mokhtarian 2005). This paper hypothesized that the locations of retails and commercial areas as understood by their space syntax derived configurational index, will first affect the choices of residential locations and also influence choices of commuting mode.

This hypothesis is tested in four US cities of Boston, Pittsburgh, Lubbock, and Salt Lake City using data collected from online open source database of the respective cities and US census bureau. Space Syntax topological and angular analyses of CAD drawn axial lines and street centerlines extracted from GIS maps are performed for all cities. ArcGIS spatial analysis tools were applied to combine land use, socio-economic & demographic, transportation and Space Syntax variables to the scale of census block-groups that was selected as the study unit. Multiple regression analyses are carried out to identify relevant and significant variables explaining each mode of transport. The findings indicate that Space Syntax variables play an important role in explaining choice of commuting mode. In addition, several linear regression analyses are performed to examine the land use and transport mode choice in the context of street configuration. The results indicate that commercial and retail concentration were positively correlated with integration cores. Following general trend of space syntax findings, commuters tend to live at configurationally segregated areas while walkers and bicycle riders tend to live in configurationally integrated areas where commercial and retail activities are concentrated. Regarding the differences of layout types, the results of comparative analysis between gridded and non-gridded cities indicates that closeness variable called ‘integration’ and between-ness variable called ‘choice’ are relevant to explain walking and driving modes in non-gridded and gridded cities respectively.


Space Syntax, Sustainability, Land Use, Street Network Design

Full Text:



Berhie, G., & Haq, S. (2015). The effect of spatial configuration on propensity for non-motorised journey to work: Case study of a gridded and non gridded American city. The 10th International Space Syntax Symposium , 062 (pp. 1-15). London.

Berhie, G., & Haq, S. (2017). Locational preferences and transportation mode choice of different socio-economic groups in the US: a space syntax included case study of two gridded and two non-gridded cities. The 11th International Space Syntax Symposium , 045 (pp. 1-21). Lisbon

Brownstone, David, and Thomas F. Golob. 2009. "The Impact of Residential Density on Vehicle Usage and Energy Consumption." Journal of Urban Economics 65 (1). Elsevier Inc.:91–98.

Cervero, Robert. 2002. "Built Environments and Mode Choice: Toward a Normative Framework." Transportation Research Part D: Transport and Environment 7 (4):265–84.

Cervero, Robert, and Kara Kockelman. 1997. "Travel Demand and the 3D's: Density, Diversity, and Design." Transportation Research Part D: Transport and Environment, 199–219.

Charalambous, Nadia, and Magda Mavridou. 2012. "Space Syntax: Spatial Integration Accessibility and Angular Segment Analysis by Metric Distance (ASAMeD).", 57–62.

Chen, Cynthia, Hongmian Gong, and Robert Paaswell. 2007. "Role of the Built Environment on Mode Choice Decisions: Additional Evidence on the Impact of Density." Transportation 35 (3):285–99.

City of Boston. 2014. "BostonMaps: Open Data." 2014.

City of Lubbock. 2016. "GIS and Data Services." 2016.

City of Pittsburgh Department of City Planning. 2016. "Geographic Information Systems." 2016.

Courtat, Thomas, Stéphane Douady, and Catherine Gloaguen. 2011. "Centrality Maps and the Analysis of City Street Networks." Proceedings of the 5th International ICST Conference on Performance Evaluation Methodologies and Tools, 316–21.

EPA. 2015. "United States Environmental Protection Agency." Http:// 2015.

Freeman, LC, SP Borgatti, and DR White. 1991. "Centrality in Valued Graphs: A Measure of Betweenness Based on Network Flow." Social Networks 13 (2):141–54.

Freeman, Linton C. 1977. "A Set of Measures of Centrality Based on Betweenness." Sociometry 40 (1):35–41

Giuliano, Genevieve. 2004. "Land Use Impacts of Transportation Investments - Highway and Transit." The Geography of Rban Transportation.

Haq, Saif. 2003. "Investigating the Syntax Line : Configurational Properties and Cognitive Correlates." Environment and Planning B: Planning and Design 30:841–63.

Hillier, Bill. 1996. "Cities as Movement Economies." Urban Design International 1 (1):41–60.

Hillier, Bill. 1999a. "Centrality as a Process: Accounting for Attraction Inequalities in Deformed Grids." Urban Design International, 06.1-06.20.

Hillier, Bill. 1999b. "The Hidden Geometry of Deformed Grids: Or, Why Space Syntax Works, When It Looks as Though It Shouldn't." Environment and Planning B: Planning and Design 26:169–92.

Hillier, Bill. 2008. Space Is the Machine, (Chinese Translation). London: University of Cambridge.

Hillier, Bill, and Julienne Hanson. 1984. The Social Logic of Space. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Hillier, Bill, A. Penn, J. Hanson, T Grajewski, and J Xu. 1993. "Natural Movement-Or, Configuration and Attraction in Urban Pedestrian Movement." Environ Plann B 20:29–66.

Hillier, Bill, Alasdair Turner, Tao Yang, and Tae-Park Hoon. 2007. "Metric and Topo-Geometric Properties of Urban Street Networks: Some Convergences, Divergences, and New Results." Proceedings of 6th International Space Syntax Symposium, Istanbul. Istanbul, 001:1-001:22.

Jones, M, and M Fanek. 1997. "Crime in the Urban Environment." Proceedings of 1st International Space Syntax Symposium, London.

Levine, Jonathan, and Lawrence D. Frank. 2006. "Transportation and Land-Use Preferences and Residents' Neighborhood Choices: The Sufficiency of Compact Development in the Atlanta Region." Transportation 34 (2):255–74.

Narayanan, Shivaram. 2005. "The Betweenness Centrality Of Biological Networks A Study of Betweenness Centrality."

Newman, P. W G, and Jeffrey R. Kenworthy. 1996. "The Land Use-Transport Connection: An Overview." Land Use Policy 13 (1):1–22.

Nubani, Linda, and Jean Wineman. 2005. "The Role of Space Syntax in Identifying the Relationship between Space and Crime." Proceedings of 5th International Space Syntax Symposium, Delft.

Penn, Alan, and Ben Croxford. 1997. "Effect of Street Grid Configuration on Kerbside Concetration of Vehicular Emissions." Proceedings of 1st International Space Syntax Symposium, London II (Urban Themes):27.1-27.10.

Peponis, J., C. Zimring, and Y. Kyung Choi. 1990. "Finding the Building in Wayfinding." Environment and Behavior 22 (5):555–90.

Peponis, John, Hadjinikolau E., Livieratos C., and Fatouros D.A. 1989. "The Spatial Core of Urban Culture." Ekistics 334:43–55.

Plaut, Pnina O. 2005. "Non-Motorized Commuting in the US." Transportation Research Part D: Transport and Environment 10 (5):347–56.

Porta, Sergio, Vito Latora, Fahui Wang, Emanuele Strano, Alessio Cardillo, Salvatore Scellato, Valentino Iacoviello, and Roberto Messora. 2009. "Street Centrality and Densities of Retail and Services in Bologna, Italy." Environment and Planning B: Planning and Design 36 (3):450–65.

Pucher, John, and Lewis Dijkstra. 2003. "Promoting Safe Walking and Cycling to Improve Public Health: Lessons From The Netherlands and Germany." American Journal of Public Health 93 (9):1509–16.

Salt Lake City. 2015. "Salt Lake City GIS Open Data." 2015.

Schwanen, Tim, and Patricia L. Mokhtarian. 2005. "What Affects Commute Mode Choice: Neighborhood Physical Structure or Preferences toward Neighborhoods?" Journal of Transport Geography 13 (1):83–99.

Topçu, M, K Topçu, and K Deniz. 2007. "Movement Economy Dependent on Urban Design." In Proceedings of 6th International Space Syntax Symposium, Istanbul. Istanbul.

US Census Bureau. 2015. "TIGER Products." 2015.

Varoudis, Tasos, Kayvan Karimi, Stephen Law, Bill Hillier, and Alan Penn. 2013. "Space Syntax Angular Betweenness Centrality Revisited." Proceedings of 9th International Space Syntax Symposium, Seoul.

Wardman, Mark, Miles Tight, and Matthew Page. 2007. "Factors Influencing the Propensity to Cycle to Work." Transportation Research Part A: Policy and Practice 41 (4):339–59.



  • There are currently no refbacks.