The role of transport in how we choose where to live: A qualitative investigation of residential location choice in the Phoenix, AZ region

There is an enormous literature on how people make daily travel choices – where to go and why, which transport mode to use, when to make their trips, and which route to take. One finding from this literature is that travel choices depend – at least in part – on where people live (Ewing & Cervero, 2010; Salon et al., 2012). In fact, travel options are critically constrained by where people live. If a person lives in a rural setting, the only useful option to access stores and services is likely to be a private vehicle of some kind – public transit is likely not available, and walking and biking are too slow. If a person lives in a city center, on the other hand, they can access most things without a private vehicle. Understanding how people make their choices about home location, therefore, is critical for understanding how they travel. There is a large literature on the role of neighborhood “self selection” in models of transport choices (e.g. Ettema & Nieuwenhuis, 2017; Gehrke, Currans, & Clifton, 2018; Salon, 2009; Schwanen & Mokhtarian, 2005). Scholars here generally simplify the home choice to be only a choice of neighborhood – or even the choice of a type of neighborhood – and focus on the question of the extent to which people’s transport preferences play a role in their choice of where to live. Survey data-based quantitative models of neighborhood choice – often joint with transport choices – dominate this literature. A consensus of sorts has been reached which points to some degree of neighborhood “self-selection”, but which also suggests that a sizable fraction of households end up choosing to live in neighborhoods that are not “consonant” with their transport preferences. The research team posit that understanding why this might be true requires taking a qualitative approach, delving into the complete home choice stories of recent homebuyers. The homebuyer’s choice is an especially complex one made in diverse ways by different households, and this diversity is difficult to capture in a quantitative modeling context. This literature includes relatively few studies of the home choice process that use in-depth interviews as evidence (two examples are Chatman, 2009; Senior et al., 2004). Thus, this project will contribute to the literature with a qualitative, interview-based study of how home buyers choose their homes, and the role of transportation factors in that choice. The main objective of this project is to improve our understanding about how people choose where to live by asking households directly about how they made their choices. The team is interested in how the overall choice of home is made, but especially interested in the role that transportation preferences play in that choice. The objective is open-ended because there have been surprisingly few qualitative, interview-based studies on this topic.


  • English


  • Status: Completed
  • Funding: $20,060
  • Contract Numbers:


  • Sponsor Organizations:

    Office of the Assistant Secretary for Research and Technology

    University Transportation Centers Program
    Department of Transportation
    Washington, DC  United States  20590
  • Managing Organizations:

    Center for Teaching Old Models New Tricks (TOMNET)

    Arizona State University
    Tempe, AZ  United States  85287
  • Performing Organizations:

    Center for Teaching Old Models New Tricks (TOMNET)

    Arizona State University
    Tempe, AZ  United States  85287
  • Principal Investigators:

    Salon, Deborah

  • Start Date: 20181001
  • Expected Completion Date: 20201001
  • Actual Completion Date: 0
  • USDOT Program: University Transportation Centers Program

Subject/Index Terms

Filing Info

  • Accession Number: 01754992
  • Record Type: Research project
  • Source Agency: Center for Teaching Old Models New Tricks (TOMNET)
  • Contract Numbers: 69A3551747116
  • Files: UTC, RIP
  • Created Date: Oct 20 2020 6:25PM