Traffic and High Density Housing PDF Print E-mail

Pro-density advocates believe that high density housing results in lower automobile usage, which leads to decreased traffic congestion. Density opponents believe the opposite. Others believe that congestion is not necessarily a bad thing. It is not a simple issue; rather, there are many variables at play (e.g. traffic definitions, change over time, density scales, localized v. regional auto use, access to services, public transportation options). Research is mixed; however, it is now focusing on learning more about how higher density may cause decreases in travel regionally but may increase localized congestion.

These are some helpful resources available on the web:

This article discusses the Location Efficiency Mortgage (LEM), which is a financing tool used in some cities for low and moderate income borrowers who want to live in transit-supported urban areas. It looks at LEM's relationship to smart growth goals, how the tool is used, and the challenges associated with pushing for its expansion.

This article examines travel and residential location patterns for households in numerous communities in California. It concludes that household transportation costs are linked with urban form features like residential density and transit accessibility.

These resources are not available on the web; however, they are some of the most relevant work on traffic congestion and density:

  • Ewing, R. R., and R. Cervero. (2002} Travel and the Built Environment: A Synthesis. Transportation Research Record. 17802001: p. 87-113.

    This paper uses a wonderful matrix to summarize the most recent work that has been done on this topic. Research is mixed depending upon how you are viewing a certain aspect of behavior. The authors find that trip frequency is primarily a function of socioeconomic characteristics and secondarily a function of the built environment. Trip lengths, are primarily a function of the built environment and secondarily a function of socioeconomic characteristics. Mode choice depends on both the built environment and socioeconomics.
  • Holtzclaw, J., R. Clear, et al. (2002). "Location Efficiency: Neighborhood and Socio-economic Characteristics Determine Auto Ownership and Use - Studies in Chicago, Los Angeles, and San Francisco." Transportation Planning and Technology 25: 1-27.

    This article looks at the relationship between auto ownership and driving distance with neighborhood urban design and socio-economic characteristics. In each city, average auto ownership is primarily a function of the neighborhood's residential density, average per capita income, average family size, and the availability of public transit. People drive less with higher density, lower income, smaller household sizes, and where transit is available; the pedestrian and bicycle friendliness of an area is less important.