UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Structural effects of the built environment on vehicle greenhouse gas emissions : evidence from Vancouver, Canada Devlin, Andrew John


This thesis summarizes efforts to estimate fundamental relationships among built environment characteristics, activity patterns and vehicle use in order to assess their relative influences on vehicle GHG emission generation in Metro Vancouver, Canada. Activity-based structural equation models were specified in a cross-sectional study design using local travel survey data and highly detailed urban form data. Structural equation analysis permitted explicit modeling of the indirect effects between built environment variables and vehicle emissions as mediated through activity patterns and vehicle use. Modeling travel at the activity-tour level allowed for a deeper understanding of the relative contributions of local and regional built environment variables in explaining tour complexity, vehicle use and emissions. Controlling for pertinent socio-economic and demographic variables, standardized parameter coefficients show the built environment to be a significant predictor of vehicle-related GHG emissions across all models, although the strength and magnitude of these effects vary by activity tour type. The local built environment is a stronger predictor of vehicle use and related emissions for non-work/school tours, while regional accessibility measures yielded larger effects on the carbon-intensity of work and school tours. Vehicle accessibility yielded significantly large effects on vehicle use and emissions across all models, suggesting that policy directions beyond promoting more compact, walkable and regionally connected development to curb emissions are required. Additional strategies may include those that address vehicle use in a more direct manner, including higher taxation, insurance or parking fees. Future research would benefit by incorporating travel and residential preferences to control for self-selection, assessing the affect of the work and school built environment on activity patterns and undertaking a more holistic assessment of the links between the built environment and total household emissions and energy use (including building, transportation, etc).

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Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International