A multi-dimensional multi-level approach to measuring the spatial structure of U.S. metropolitan areas


  • Arefeh Nasri University of Maryland, College Park
  • Lei Zhang University of Maryland, College Park




Built environment, Spatial analysis, Land use, Metropolitan structure, Sprawl, Cluster analysis, Urban form.


For many years, attempts to measure the urban structure and physical form of metropolitan areas have been focused on a limited set of attributes, mostly density and density gradients. However, the complex nature of the urban form requires the consideration of many other dimensions to provide a comprehensive measure that includes all aspects of the urban structure and growth pattern at different hierarchical levels. In this paper, a multi-dimensional method of measuring urban form and development patterns in urban areas of the United States is presented. The methodology presented here develops several variables and indices that contribute to the characterization and quantification of the overall physical form of urban areas at various hierarchical levels. Cluster analysis is performed to group metropolitan areas based on their urban form and land-use pattern. This allows for a better utilization of land-use transportation planning and policy analyses used by planners and researchers. This clustering of urban areas could eventually help policymakers and decision makers in the decision-making process to evaluate land-use transportation policies, identify similar patterns, and understand how similar policies implemented in urban areas with similar urban form structure would result in more efficient and successful planning in the future.


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How to Cite

Nasri, A., & Zhang, L. (2018). A multi-dimensional multi-level approach to measuring the spatial structure of U.S. metropolitan areas. Journal of Transport and Land Use, 11(1). https://doi.org/10.5198/jtlu.2018.893