Identifying appropriate land-use mix measures for use in a national walkability index

Suzanne Mavoa, Serryn Eagleson, Hannah M Badland, Lucy Gunn, Claire Boulange, Joshua Stewart, Billie Giles-Corti


Walkability indices can guide planning and policy for more sustainable and liveble cities. Land-use mix is an important component of walkability that can be measured in a number of ways. Many land-use mix measures require fine-scaled land-use data that are not always available, especially when analyzing walkability across larger geographic extents.
This study investigated the feasibility of calculating a national walkability index in Australia, using metropolitan Melbourne as a case study. The study focused on the dual challenges of selecting an appropriate measure of land-use mix and identifying an appropriate land-use data source.
We calculated an entropy land-use mix measure with three different Australian land-use datasets. Our comparison of the resulting land-use mix measures highlighted the differences in the land-use datasets and led to our conclusion that none of the three land-use datasets was appropriate for use in a national land-use mix measure. Therefore, we also developed two new exploratory “intensity” measures of land use — daily living and local living — that were able to be calculated nationally with readily available data. Modelled associations with transport walking and comparisons with the entropy land-use mix measures indicate that these new measures were appropriate for assessing national land use in a national walkability index.


land use; walkability; walking; built environment; GIS

Full Text:



Adams, M. A., Frank, L. D. , Schipperijn, J., Smith, G., Chapman, J., Christiansen, L. B., Coffee, N., Salvo, D., du Toit, L., & Dygrýn, J. (2014). International variation in neighborhood walkability, transit, and recreation environments using geographic information systems: The IPEN adult study. International Journal of Health Geographics, 13, 43.

Brown, B. B., Yamada, I., Smith, K. R., Zick, C. D., Kowaleski-Jones, L., & Fan, J. X. (2009). Mixed land use and walkability: Variations in land-use measures and relationships with BMI, overweight, and obesity. Health and Place, 15(4), 1130–1141.

Brownson, R. C., Hoehner, C. M., Day, K., & Forsyth, A. (2009). Measuring the built environment for physical activity: State of the science. American Journal of Preventive Medicine, 36(4), S99–S123.

Christian, H. E., Bull, F. C., Middleton, N. J., Knuiman, M. W., Divitini, M. L.,Hooper, P., Amarasinghe, A., & Giles-Corti, B. (2011). How important is the land-use mix measure in understanding walking behavior? Results from the RESIDE study. International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity, 8, 55.

Daniels, R., & Mulley, C. (2013). Explaining walking distance to public transport: The dominance of public transport supply. Journal of Transport and Land Use, 6(2), 5–20.

Duncan, M. J., Winkler, E., Sugiyama, T., Cerin, E., Leslie, E., & Owen, N. (2010). Relationships of land-use mix with walking for transport: Do land uses and geographical scale matter? Journal of Urban Health, 87(5), 782–795.

Department of Planning and Environment. (2014). A plan for growing Sydney. Sydney: Department of Planning and Environment.

Frank, L., Sallis, J., Saelens, B., Leary, L., Cain, K., Conway, T., & Hess, P. (2010). The development of a walkability index: Application to the Neighborhood Quality of Life Study. British Journal of Sports Medicine, 44, 924–933.

Frank, L. D., Schmid, T. L., Sallis, J. F., Chapman, J., & Saelens, B. E. (2005). Linking objectively measured physical activity with objectively measured urban form — Findings from SMARTRAQ. American Journal of Preventive Medicine, 28(2), 117–125.

Gehrke, S., & Clifton, K. (2014). Operationalizing land use diversity at varying geographic scales and its connection to mode choice: Evidence from Portland, Oregon. Transportation Research Record: Journal of the Transportation Research Board, 2453, 128–136.

Giles-Corti, B., Badland, H., Mavoa, S., Turrell, G., Bull, F., Boruff, B., Pettit, C., Bauman, A., Hooper, P., & Villanueva, K. (2014). Reconnecting urban planning with health: A protocol for the development and validation of national livability indicators associated with noncommunicable disease risk behaviors and health outcomes. Public Health Research and Practice, 25(1), e2511405.

Giles-Corti, B., Macaulay, A., Middleton, N., Boruff, B., Bull, F., Butterworth, I., Badland, H., Mavoa, S., Roberts, R., & Christian, H. (2014). Developing a research and practice tool to measure walkability: A demonstration project. Health Promotion Journal of Australia, 25, 160–166.

Giles-Corti, B., Mavoa, S., Eagleson, S., Davern, M., Roberts, R., & Badland, H. M. (2014). Transport Walkability Index: Melbourne. Melbourne: The University of Melbourne.

Hess, P. M., Moudon, A. V., & Logsdon, M. G. (2001).

Measuring land-use patterns for transportation research. Land Development and Public Involvement in Transportation, 1780, 17–24.

Hooper, P., Giles-Corti, B., & Knuiman, M. (2014). Evaluating the implementation and active living impacts of a state government planning policy designed to create walkable neighborhoods in Perth, Western Australia. American Journal of Health Promotion, 28(sp3): S5–S18.

Learnihan, V., Van Niel, K. P., Giles-Corti, B., & Knuiman, M. (2011). Effect of scale on the links between walking and urban design. Geographical Research, 49(2), 183–191.

Lee, C., & Moudon, A. V. (2006). The 3Ds + R: Quantifying land use and urban form correlates of walking. Transportation Research Part D: Transport and Environment, 11(3), 204–215.

Major Cities Unit. (2011). Our cities, our future: A national urban policy for a productive, sustainable and livable future. Australian Government: Department of Infrastructure and Transport.

Manaugh, K., & Kreider, T. (2013). What is mixed use? Presenting an interaction method for measuring land-use mix. Journal of Transport and Land Use, 6(1), 63–72.

Mayne, D. J., Morgan, G. G., Willmore, A., Rose, N., Jalaludin, B., Bambrick, H., & Bauman, A. (2013). An objective index of walkability for research and planning in the Sydney Metropolitan Region of New South Wales, Australia: An ecological study. International Journal of Health Geographics, 12, 61.

Merlin, L. A. (2014). Measuring community completeness: Jobs—housing balance, accessibility, and convenient local access to nonwork destinations. Environment and Planning B: Planning and Design, 41(4), 736–756.

Owen, N., Cerin, E,. Leslie, E., Dutoit, L., Coffee, N., Frank, L. D., Bauman, A. E., Hugo, G., Saelens, B. E., & Sallis, J. F. (2007). Neighborhood walkability and the walking behavior of Australian adults. American Journal of Preventive Medicine, 33(5), 387–395.

Sallis, J. F., Floyd, M. F., Rodríguez, D. A., & Saelens, B. E. (2012). Role of built environments in physical activity, obesity, and cardiovascular disease. Circulation, 125(5), 729–737.

Shannon, C. E., & Weaver, W. (1949). Evolution and measurement of species diversity. Taxon, 21, 213–251.

Song, Y., Merlin, L., & Rodriguez, D. (2013). Comparing measures of urban land--use mix. Computers, Environment and Urban Systems, 42, 1–13.

Song, Y. & Rodríguez, D. A. (2005). The measurement of the level of mixed land uses: a synthetic approach. Carolina Transportation Program White Paper Series, Chapel Hill, NC.

State of Victoria. (2014). Plan Melbourne — Metropolitan planning strategy. Melbourne: Department of Transport.

Villanueva, K., Knuiman, M., Nathan, A., Giles-Corti, B., Christian, H., Foster, S., & Bull, F. (2014). The impact of neighborhood walkability on walking: Does it differ across adult life stage and does neighborhood buffer size matter? Health and Place, 25, 43–46.

Western Australian Planning Commission (2007). Livable neighborhoods: A Western Australian government sustainable cities initiative. Perth: Western Australia Planning Commission.

Witten, K., Blakely, T., Bagheri, N., Badland, H., Ivory, V., Pearce, J., Mavoa, S., Hinckson, E., & Schofield, G. (2012). Neighborhood built environment and transport and leisure physical activity: Findings using objective exposure and outcome measures in New Zealand. Environmental Health Perspectives, 120(7), 971.

Yamada, I., Brown, B. B., Smith, K. R., Zick, C. D., Kowaleski-Jones, L., & Fan, J. X. (2012). Mixed land use and obesity: An empirical comparison of alternative land-use measures and geographic scales. The Professional Geographer, 64(2), 157–177.


Copyright (c) 2018 Suzanne Mavoa, Serryn Eagleson, Hannah M Badland, Lucy Gunn, Claire Boulange, Joshua Stewart, Billie Giles-Corti