Publication Detail

The Travel and Urban Form Implications of Telecommunications Technology


Research Report

Suggested Citation:
Mokhtarian, Patricia L. (1993) The Travel and Urban Form Implications of Telecommunications Technology. Institute of Transportation Studies, University of California, Davis, Research Report UCD-ITS-RR-93-28

Discussion Paper for FHWA/LILP Workshop METROPOLITAN AMERICA IN TRANSITION: Implications for Land Use and Transportation Planning, Washington DC, September 9 - 10, 1993

Telecommunications technology could affect travel in three ways: by substituting for travel, by stimulating new travel, and by making more efficient or in some way rearranging travel that would have occurred anyway. All three of these types of effects could have an impact on urban form. Conventional wisdom holds, with reason, that telecommunications will lead to increased decentralization – greater urban sprawl. Several points are discussed regarding that view, partly supporting and partly moderating it.

Specifically: the direct travel impacts of telecommuting are likely to be small, as are the relocation impacts of telecommuting. The impact of IVHS technology on decentralization is likely to be much greater, as ceteris paribus, more people will use IVHS, more often, than will telecommute. It is important to distinguish micro-scale decentralization (relocation to the urban fringe) from macro-scale decentralization (relocation to a different region or country); telecommunications can lead to both, but the impacts and issues can be quite different. Finally, telecommunications is only a facilitator, that permits centralization as well as decentralization; other factors actually drive and determine location decisions.

A number of research studies are suggested, involving the impacts of telecommunications in urban areas, exurban areas, as a tool for rural/small town economic development, and internationally. Several policy issues are implicit in these studies, such as the continued sociodemographic fragmentation of American society, the provision of infrastructure to support large shifts in population, and the commitment to economically viable CBDs.