Does Energy Follow Urban Form? An Examination of Neighborhoods and Transport Energy Use in Jinan, China

TitleDoes Energy Follow Urban Form? An Examination of Neighborhoods and Transport Energy Use in Jinan, China
Publication TypeThesis
Year of Publication2010
AuthorsYang Jiang
Academic DepartmentDept. of Civil and Environmental Engineering; Dept. of Urban Studies and Planning
DegreeMaster of City Planning, Master of Science in Transportation
UniversityMassachusetts Institute of Technology
CityCambridge, MA

This thesis explores the impacts of neighborhood form and location on household transportation energy use in the context of Jinan, China. From a theoretical perspective, energy use is a derived outcome of activities, and households choose their travel patterns to maximize net utilities subject to constraints of time, budget and means. Neighborhood features presumably could 1) in the short-term directly influence households' choices of their travel patterns by changing incurred trip costs (disutilities) and realization benefits (positive utilities) among alternatives; 2) in the long-term indirectly influence patterns by affecting households' attitudes and their choices of vehicle ownership, both taken into account in the short-term utility maximization process. However, due to other complicating interactions among different aspects of travel patterns and other factors (e.g., housing choice), we cannot a priori determine what the impact of neighborhood on household travel energy use will be. This research takes an empirical approach to examining the relationship between the neighborhood and household travel energy use in Jinan, China, using 9 neighborhoods representing four different urban form typologies commonly found in Chinese cities: "traditional", "grid", "enclave", and "superblock." Data on neighborhood forms and households are obtained from visual survey, GIS digitalization and a household survey. Household transport energy uses (and greenhouse gas emissions) are derived from self-reported household weekly travel diaries. Descriptive analysis, multivariate regression analysis (i.e., OLS, TOBIT), and advanced two-step instrumental models (i.e., LOGIT+OLS/TOBIT) are employed. Results show that, all else equal, households living in the "superblock" neighborhoods consume more transportation energy than those living in the other neighborhood types, as they tend to own more cars and travel longer distance. The proximity to transit corridors and greater distance from the city center also apparently increase household transport energy use, although both impacts are somewhat minor, partially due to offsetting effects on car ownership. A number of effects of household socioeconomics, demographics and attitudes on transport energy use and car ownership are also identified. Overall, the analysis suggests that to help chart a more energy-efficient Chinese urban future, policymakers and urban designers should examine past neighborhood designs in China to find alternatives to the "superblock", focus on strategic infill development, possibly encourage e-bike use as substitute to larger motorized vehicles, improve the efficiency of public transport, and examine preference-shaping possibilities to influence more energy efficient lifestyles.


Supervised by P. Christopher Zegras, Reader: Jinhua Zhao