Project Title

Virginia Sustainable Travel Choices: Effects of Land Use and Location on Current and Future Travel Options

Collaborating Universities

University of Virginia
351 McCormick Dr.
P.O. Box 400742
Charlottesville, VA 22904-4742

Principal Investigator(s)

Andrew Mondschein (UVA) - Email:

Funding Source(s) and Amounts Provided (by each agency or organization)

VDOT: $113,200 (Match)

Total Project Costs

$113,200 Match

Agency ID or Contract Number


Start Date


Completion Date



Recent research has shown that smart growth and other land use/built environment strategies can influence daily travel, potentially reducing vehicle miles traveled (VMT) and increasisng travel by alternative modes (Lovins 2013; Ewing & Cervero, 2010).  However, results vary considerably from place to place, and increasing density alone has not been found to result in more sustainable travel.  These findings suggest that diverse regions like the mid-Atlantic, with a mix of urban, suburban, and rural environments, cannot rely on a single approach to reducing VMT.  This project will highlight sustainable transportation/land use systems across a range of settlement patterns, with emphasis on the interconnectedness of low-, medium- and high-density places within the region. Over the course of a three-year investigation, this analysis of local and regional travel and the built environment will (1) examine travel and land use patterns within the mid-Atlantic region, measuring relative levels of sustainable travel for a range of environments, (2) identify policies and planning approaches associated with specific travel patterns, and (3) propose solutions to improving transportation sustainability that account for local conditions as well as broader regional factors. We expect that the travel modes and planning approaches most critical to providing usable alternatives to solo driving will vary substantially among places in the region.

In year 1, the analysis of relationships among land use and travel patterns will use spatial analytic methods to identify configurations of infrastructure and development patterns that show evidence of reduced driving and mode shift.  Data on travel and land use patterns will be assembled in coordination with jurisdictions within the MATS region.  This effort will be undertaken at the University of Virginia, with advisory input from Marcia Scott at the University of Delaware (UD).  This project is aligned with UD’s Land Use Master Planning project, and policy analysis and development will informed by that project. Years 2 and 3 of the project will build upon the quantitative findings, linking travel with specific policies and planning strategies, and building analytic tools for local and regional actors to use when developing a distinctive approach to sustainable travel.

Referenced Cited

Ewing, R., & Cervero, R. (2010). Travel and the Built Environment. Journal of the American Planning Association, 76(3), 265-294.

Lovins, A. (2013). Reinventing fire: Bold business solutions for the new energy era: Chelsea Green Publishing.


Potential implementation of project outcomes

All findings and recommendations from this project will be made available to planners and other transportation practitioners through publication and presentation in well-known venues in the field.


Expected benefits and impacts

This project will provide an important but missing element of planners’ and policymakers’ understanding of how the built environment can shape sustainable travel behavior, specifically focusing on the differences among urban, suburban, and rural communities, as well as the significant travel linkages between these communities.  By relating quantified evidence of sustainable travel to specific policies and planning approaches, the practical solutions will be emphasized.

Web Links to Reports and to the Project website