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Effects of the modifiable areal unit problem on the delineation of traffic analysis zones


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Transportation analysis is typically thought of as one kind of spatial analysis. A major point of departure in understanding problems in transportation analysis is the recognition that spatial analysis has some limitations associated with the discretization of space. Among them, modifiable areal units and boundary problems are directly or indirectly related to transportation planning and analysis through the design of traffic analysis zones (TAZs). The modifiable boundary and the scale issues should all be given specific attention during the specification of a TAZ because of the effects these factors exert on statistical and mathematical properties of spatial patterns (ie the modifiable areal unit problem—MAUP). The results obtained from the study of spatial data are not independent of the scale, and the aggregation effects are implicit in the choice of zonal boundaries. The delineation of zonal boundaries of TAZs has a direct impact on the reality and accuracy of the results obtained from transportation forecasting models. In this paper the MAUP effects on the TAZ definition and the transportation demand models are measured and analyzed using different grids (in size and in origin location). This analysis was developed by building an application integrated in commercial GIS software and by using a case study (Lisbon Metropolitan Area) to test its implementabiity and performance. The results reveal the conflict between statistical and geographic precision, and their relationship with the loss of information in the traffic assignment step of the transportation planning models.

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