The influence of street environments on fuel efficiency: insights from naturalistic driving

Original Paper


Fuel consumption and greenhouse gas emissions in the transportation sector are a result of a “three-legged stool”: fuel types, vehicle fuel efficiency, and vehicle miles travelled (VMT). While there is a substantial body of literature that examines the connection between the built environment and total VMT, few studies have focused on the impacts of the street environment on fuel consumption rate. Our research applied structural equation modeling to examine how driving behaviors and fuel efficiency respond to different street environments. We used a rich naturalistic driving dataset that recorded detailed driving patterns of 108 drivers randomly selected from the Southeast Michigan region. The results show that, some features of compact streets such as lower speed limit, higher intersection density, and higher employment density are associated with lower driving speed, more speed changes, and lower fuel efficiency; however, other features such as higher population density and higher density of pedestrian-scale retails improve fuel efficiency. The aim of our study is to gain further understanding of energy and environmental outcomes of the urban areas and the roadway infrastructure we plan, design, and build and to better inform policy decisions concerned with sustainable transportation.


Street environments Fuel efficiency Structural equation modeling Naturalistic driving 



The authors wish to acknowledge the support of University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute which provided the naturalistic driving dataset and Southeast Michigan Council of Government which provided the road network data used in this study.


  1. Ahn K, Rakha H (2009) A field evaluation case study of the environmental and energy impacts of traffic calming. Transp Res Part D Transp Environ 14(6):411–424. doi: 10.1016/j.trd.2009.01.007 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Banister D, Watson S, Wood C (1997) Sustainable cities: transport, energy, and urban form. Environ Plan B Plan Des 24(1):125–143CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Brundell-Freij K, Ericsson E (2005) Influence of street characteristics, driver category and car performance on urban driving patterns. Transp Res Part D 10(3):213–229CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Cervero R, Kockelman KM (1997) Travel demand and the 3Ds: density, diversity, and design. Transp Res D 2(3):199–219CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Cervero R, Murakami J (2010) Effects of built environments on vehicle miles traveled: evidence from 370 US urbanized areas. Environ Plan A 42:400–418CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Coelho MC, Frey HC, Rouphail NM, Zhai H, Pelkmans L (2009) Assessing methods for comparing emissions from gasoline and diesel light-duty vehicles based on microscale measurements. Transp Res Part D Transp Environ 14(2):91–99. doi: 10.1016/j.trd.2008.11.005 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Congress for the New Urbanism (2013) Charter of the new urbanism, 2nd edn. McGraw-Hill ProfessionalGoogle Scholar
  8. Duany A, Plater-Zyberk E, Speck J (2001) Suburban nation: the rise of sprawl and the decline of the American dream. North Point Press, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  9. Duany A, Speck J, Lydon M (2009) The smart growth manual. McGraw-Hill, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  10. EPA (2001) EPA guidance: improving air quality through land use activities. Transportation and Regional Programs Division, Office of Transportation and Air Quality, WashingtonGoogle Scholar
  11. EPA (2010) 2010 Fuel economy guide. U.S. Department of Energy, U.S. Environmental Protection AgencyGoogle Scholar
  12. Ericsson E (2000) Variability in urban driving patterns. Transp Res Part D 5:337–354CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Ericsson E (2001) Independent driving pattern factors and their influence on fuel use and exhaust emission factors. Transp Res Part D 6(5):324–345CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Ewing R, Cervero R (2001) Travel and the built environment: a synthesis. Transp Res Rec 1780(1):87–114CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Ewing R, Cervero R (2010) Travel and the built environment. J Am Plan Assoc 76(3):265–294CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Ewing R, Bartholomew K, Winkelman S, Walters J, Chen D (2008) Growing cooler: evidence on urban development and climate change. ULI, Washington, DCGoogle Scholar
  17. Fitzpatrick K, Carlson P, Brewer M, Wooldridge M (2001) Design factors that affect driver speed on suburban streets. Transportation Research Record 1751 (Paper No. 01-2163)Google Scholar
  18. Frank LD, James FS, Terry LC, James EC et al (2006) Many pathways from land use to health. Am Plan Assoc J Am Plan Assoc 72(1):75CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Frey HC, Zhang K, Rouphail NM (2010) Vehicle-specific emissions modelling based upon on-road measurements. Environ Sci Technol 44(9):3594–3600. doi: 10.1021/es902835h CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Galster G, Hanson R, Ratcliffe MR, Wolman H, Coleman S, Freinage J (2001) Wrestling sprawl to the ground: defining and measuring an elusive concept. Housing Policy Debate 12(4):681–717CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Grengs J (2010) Job accessibility and the modal mismatch in Detroit. J Transp Geogr 18(1):42–54. doi: 10.1016/j.jtrangeo.2009.01.012 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Hastie T, Tibshirani R, Friedman J, Hastie T, Friedman J, Tibshirani R (2009) The elements of statistical learning, vol 1, 2. Springer, HeidelbergCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Hayduk LA (1988) Structural equation modeling with LISREL: essentials and advances. JHU PressGoogle Scholar
  24. Kenworthy JR, Newman PWG, Lyons TJ (1992) The ecology of urban driving I—methodology. Transp Res Part A Policy Pract 26(3):263–272. doi: 10.1016/0965-8564(92)90036-7 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Kline RB (2011) Principles and practice of structural equation modelling. Guilford press, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  26. Liu C, Shen Q (2011) An empirical analysis of the influence of urban form on household travel, energy consumption, and emissions. Comput Environ Urban Syst 35(5):347–357CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Malakootian M, Yaghmaeian K (2004) Investigation of carbon monoxide in heavy traffic intersections of municipal districts. Int J Environ Sci Technol 1(3):227–231CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. McCann B, Rynne S (2010) Complete streets: best policy and implementation practices. American Planning Association (Planners Press)Google Scholar
  29. Nesamani JS, Saphores J-D, McNally MG, Jayakrishnan R (2011) The Influence of emission specific characteristics on vehicle operation: a micro-simulation analysis. Institute of Transportation Studies, University of California, IrvineGoogle Scholar
  30. Newman PWG, Kenworthy JR (1989) Gasoline consumption and cities. Am Plan Assoc J Am Plan Assoc 55(1):24CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. NHTS (2004) 2001 National household travel survey user’s guide (version 3). U.S Department of Transportation Federal Highway Administration, WashingtonGoogle Scholar
  32. Pandian S, Gokhale S, Ghoshal AK (2009) Evaluating effects of traffic and vehicle characteristics on vehicular emissions near traffic intersections. Transp Res Part D Transp Environ 14(3):180–196. doi: 10.1016/j.trd.2008.12.001 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Rassafi A, Vaziri M, Azadani A (2006) Strategies for utilizing alternative fuels by Iranian passenger cars. Int J Environ Sci Technol 3(1):59–68CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. U.S. Department of Energy (2013) International Energy Outlook 2013 early release. Washington, DCGoogle Scholar
  35. U.S. DOT (2010) Transportation’s role in reducing U.S. greenhouse gas emissions report to Congress, vol 1. U.S. DOT, Washington, DCGoogle Scholar
  36. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (2013) Inventory of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions and sinks, 1990–2011Google Scholar
  37. Várhelyi A (2002) The effects of small roundabouts on emissions and fuel consumption: a case study. Transp Res Part D Transp Environ 7(1):65–71. doi: 10.1016/S1361-9209(01)00011-6 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Wang Z, Wu Y, Zhou Y, Li Z, Wang Y, Zhang S, Hao J (2013) Real-world emissions of gasoline passenger cars in Macao and their correlation with driving conditions. Int J Environ Sci Technol 1–12Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Islamic Azad University (IAU) 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • X. Wang
    • 1
  • C. Liu
    • 2
  • L. Kostyniuk
    • 3
    • 4
  • Q. Shen
    • 5
  • S. Bao
    • 3
  1. 1.Department of GeographyCentral Michigan UniversityMount PleasantUSA
  2. 2.Urban Studies and Planning Program, National Center for Smart Growth, Research and EducationUniversity of MarylandCollege ParkUSA
  3. 3.University of Michigan Transportation Research InstituteAnn ArborUSA
  4. 4.Urban and Regional PlanningUniversity of MichiganAnn ArborUSA
  5. 5.Department of Urban Design and Planning, College of Built EnvironmentsUniversity of WashingtonSeattleUSA

Personalised recommendations