Excess Commuting and the Modifiable Areal Unit Problem

Excess Commuting and the ModiŽ able Areal Unit Problem
Mark W. Horner and Alan T. Murray
[Paper Žrst received, March 2001; in Ž nal form, May 2001]
Summary. Excess commuting has emerged during the past two decades as an important construct for evaluating the spatial relationships between employment and residential locations. During this time-period, there has been an on-going debate regarding how one should measure excess commuting in urban regions. This paper contributes to the debate by focusing on the spatial issues inherent in excess commuting evaluation. We demonstrate how scale and unit deŽ nition (the modiŽ able areal unit problem) are manifested in the assessment of excess commuting, both in theoretical and empirical terms. To this end, a geographical information systems-based analysis is presented which explores spatial sensitivities in the excess commuting measure. Our results show that aggregation and spatial unit deŽ nition may have profound impacts on the estimation of excess commuting. This work provides a formal resolution to much of the recent debate regarding estimates of excess commuting in urban regions.

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