Research that attempts to characterize urban form is confronted with two key issues: criticism of the use of aggregate units of analysis, such as census tracts, and a general lack of consideration of variables related to elements other than the built environment, such as residents’ behavior. This methodological study explores the impact of travel behavior variables in the quantitative characterization of urban form at the census tract level for the Montreal region. Two separate factor-cluster analyses are performed: the first includes built-environment variables commonly used to typify areas within a region, and a second includes additional travel behavior variables. The results of both models are compared to satellite images to determine which analysis more accurately represents the reality on the ground. The results provide empirical evidence that travel behavior variables, in addition to built form, provide a more accurate representation of urban form at the census tract level. These variables refine the model output by moderating the effect of features that generally led to misleading results. This effect is particularly evident in areas represented by large census tracts. These results suggest that considering both built environment and behavioral characteristics in an analysis of urban form yields more precise results at the (aggregate) census tract level. The findings from this study could be helpful for engineers and planners when conducting property value studies, urban investment analysis, and policy intervention prioritization and when expanding the well-known land use classification of urban and rural categories.
Travel behavior, census tracts, urban form, characterization, factor-cluster analysis