A Cost-Effect Analysis:

An Empirical Case Study of Transportation Sustainability Efforts in Two College Towns


  • Abir Arabi Department of Economics, University of North Texas




Transportation Sustainability — Walkability — Public Transportation — Denton, Texas


College towns are known for their large student populations, strong human capital, and collaborative economic activity. Ideally, they are arenas to expand research and development, given the presence of vibrant academic institutions. One of the themes of this expansion is sustainability—-an urban growth objective that emphasizes ecological awareness and strategies to mitigate the effects of climate change. This does not necessarily denote environmental protection alone; it can include a number of goals, including social diversity. The literature shows that sustainability is a complex objective in an urban setting. Consequently, we focus on economic activity aimed at improving soft and hard infrastructure that is strategically aimed at smart growth. To that end, this paper evaluates the economic cost and effect of sustainability strategies in Denton and Austin, Texas. In particular, we look at walkability and public transportation strategies and how they have been instituted in these two college towns. Methodologically, we look at urban transportation design differences between these two cities. Using route maps and user data, we show why Denton’s sustainability strategies are widely considered more successful than Austin’s, despite the size differential in Austin’s favor. These results can help governments, urban planners, and economists develop strategies to deal with the challenges of urban growth.