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A Healthy Mix?

Health-Food Retail and Mixed-Use Development- Mobility-related Analysis of Grocery-Shopping Behavior in Irvine, California


Benjamin Heldt

Mixed-use developments are one of the means planners use to realize land-use changes required by SB375 to encounter climate change. The mix of land uses is intended to reduce distances between activities. However, for their economic viability, such projects require specialty retail as anchor tenants which draw a special customer base that may be willing to travel far. Consequently, specialty may contradict a mixed-use development’s intention to reduce traffic. This research looks into the spatial behavior of the customers of a health-food store that is located at the mixed-use development «Park Place» in Irvine, CA. Using a POS-intercept survey and GIS, the author found that regular health-food shoppers indeed travel significantly farther distances than occasional health-food shoppers.


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The climate change is spurred by many anthropogenic activities, in particular by transportation and land use patterns that are related to low-density sprawling development. These cause considerable traffic leading to rising air pollution, which is, according to the IPCC, “very likely” to accelerate the increase of average temperatures in the long term. In California for example, 30% of all green house gas emissions stem from passenger vehicles. In order to address this and other consequences of the sprawl, the State of California has issued State Bill 375 which requires changes in land use and transportation patterns. Over the years several instruments to mitigate the sprawl were developed by the new urbanists. One of them, the mixed use development, is seen as a suitable planning instrument to realize the goals of SB 375. Such developments, as they consist of more than three land uses, can help to make traffic more sustainable in three mutually supporting ways , i.e., by decreasing trip distances, by increasing the use of non-motorized or non-personal modes, and by raising the proportion of trips in which more than two activities are linked. As mixed use development often requires specialty retail which in turn relies on a special customer base that is very dispersed, its traffic reduction goals can be challenged. This research attempts to assess the traffic-related sustainability of mixed use developments by analyzing which effects a specialty store has on consumers’ shopping travel patterns. In applying a buyer decision based fra- mework it assumes that distances traveled...

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