Characterization and evolution of spatial density patterns in urban areas

Hani S. Mahmassani*, M. Hadi Baaj, Chef Chung Tong

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


This paper examines the spatial patterns of population density, household automobile ownership and other socio-demographic variables that affect urban travel, as a function of distance from the central city core. Spatial density functions provide a useful characterization of urban structure, and of its evolution when taken at different time intervals. Analysis of the data from four case cities (Austin, Atlanta, Dallas, Phoenix) for 1960, 1970 and 1980 reveals continuing overall dispersion away from the traditional central core, accompanied by the densification of formerly low-density suburbs. This presents implications for high congestion levels in the densifying "suburban" communities, comparable to those typically associated with the CBD. In addition, the analysis has captured the continuing growth of average household automobile ownership and revealed a distinct spatial pattern that seems to be robust across the case areas considered, as well as within radial corridors in the one case that was so analyzed (Austin).

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)233-256
Number of pages24
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 1 1988


  • socio-demographics
  • suburban congestion
  • urban structure
  • urban transportation planning

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Development
  • Civil and Structural Engineering


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