Development of a neighborhood drivability index and its association with transportation behavior in Toronto

Nicolette R. den Braver, Jeroen Lakerveld, Peter Gozdyra, Tim van de Brug, John S. Moin, Ghazal S. Fazli, Femke Rutters, Johannes Brug, Rahim Moineddin, Joline W. J. Beulens, Gillian L. Booth

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)


Background: Car driving is a form of passive transport that is associated with an increase in physical inactivity, obesity, air pollution and noise. Built environment characteristics may influence transport mode choice, but comprehensive indices for built environment characteristics that drive car use are still lacking, while such an index could provide tangible policy entry points. Objective: We developed and validated a neighbourhood drivability index, capturing combined dimensions of the neighbourhood environment in the City of Toronto, and investigated its association with transportation choices (car, public transit or active transport), overall, by trip length, and combined for residential neighbourhood and workplace drivability. Methods: We used exploratory factor analysis to derive distinct factors (clusters of one or more environmental characteristics) that reflect the degree of car dependency in each neighbourhood, drawing from candidate variables that capture density, diversity, design, destination accessibility, distance to transit, and demand management. Area-level factor scores were then combined into a single composite score, reflecting neighbourhood drivability. Negative binomial generalized estimating equations were used to test the association between driveability quintiles (Q) and primary travel mode (>50% of trips by car, public transit, or walking/cycling) in a population-based sample of 63,766 Toronto residents enrolled in the Transportation Tomorrow Survey (TTS) wave 2016, adjusting for individual and household characteristics, and accounting for clustering of respondents within households. Results: The drivability index consisted of three factors: Urban sprawl, pedestrian facilities and parking availability. Relative to those living in the least drivable neighbourhoods (Q1), those in high drivability areas (Q5) had a significantly higher rate of car travel (adjusted Risk Ratio (RR): 1.80, 95%CI: 1.77–1.88), and lower rate of public transit use (RR: 0.90, 95%CI: 0.85–0.94) and walking/cycling (RR: 0.22, 95%CI: 0.19–0.25). Associations were strongest for short trips (<3 km) (RR: 2.72, 95%CI: 2.48–2.92), and in analyses where both residential and workplace drivability was considered (RR for car use in high/high vs. low/low residential/workplace drivability: 2.18, 95%CI: 2.08–2.29). Conclusion: This novel neighbourhood drivability index predicted whether local residents drive or use active modes of transportation and can be used to investigate the association between drivability, physical activity, and chronic disease risk.

Original languageEnglish
Article number107182
Pages (from-to)107182
JournalEnvironment International
Early online date17 Mar 2022
Publication statusPublished - May 2022


  • Built environment
  • Drivability
  • Household travel survey
  • Neighborhoods
  • Physical activity
  • Transportation behavior

Cite this