Date on Master's Thesis/Doctoral Dissertation


Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation

Degree Name

Ph. D.


Urban and Public Affairs

Degree Program

Urban and Public Affairs, PhD

Committee Chair

Gilderbloom, John

Committee Co-Chair (if applicable)

Simpson, David

Committee Member

Simpson, David

Committee Member

Koven, Steven

Committee Member

Ruther, Matthew

Committee Member

Hanka, Matthew

Author's Keywords

Automobile Dependence; Multimodality; Urban Indicators; Sustainable Urban Development; Public Health; Quality of Life


Automobile-dependent sprawl remains the dominant urban development paradigm in the United States. One reason for this is that the automobile is assumed to be more beneficial to the local economy than it is detrimental to society. Both sides of this assumption are wrong. First, local economies do not benefit much from automobile dependency. On the contrary, multimodal cities have lower unemployment, higher wages for African-Americans, and more efficient property markets. In addition, while it is true that multimodality means slightly higher taxes, the total value of living in multimodal cities far surpasses automobile-dependent cities with a massively improved quality of life. Second, while automobile-dependent cities have been shown to foster obesity, the full range and intensity of automobile dependency’s health impact has been grossly understated. This research provides compelling evidence that multimodal cities not only have lower rates of obesity, but also better overall health, and significantly lower rates of premature death. Urban research has much to blame for this misunderstanding: How we look at problems largely shapes the answers we generate. By distinguishing between the independent effects of sprawl and automobile dependency, and by using municipalities themselves instead of massive urbanized regions, this research more accurately assesses the full range and depth of the benefits of transportation multimodality.

Included in

Urban Studies Commons