Correlation of travel time on roads versus straight line distance

Med Care Res Rev. 1995 Nov;52(4):532-42. doi: 10.1177/107755879505200406.


Studies of hospital demand and choice of hospital have used straight line distance from a patient's home to hospitals as a measure of geographic access, but there is the potential for bias if straight line distance does not accurately reflect travel time. Travel times for unimpeded travel between major intersections in upstate New York were compared with distances between these points. The correlation between distance and travel time was 0.987 for all observations and 0.826 for distances less than 15 miles. These very high correlations indicate that straight line distance is a reasonable proxy for travel time in most hospital demand or choice models, especially those with large numbers of hospitals. The authors' outlier analyses show some exceptions, however, so this relationship may not hold for studies focusing on specific hospitals, very small numbers of hospitals, or studies in dense urban areas with high congestion and reliance on surface streets.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Catchment Area, Health*
  • Data Collection
  • Geography
  • Health Services Accessibility / statistics & numerical data*
  • Health Services Needs and Demand
  • Hospitals / statistics & numerical data*
  • Hospitals / supply & distribution
  • New York
  • Regression Analysis
  • Time Factors
  • Travel / statistics & numerical data*