Deconstructing development density: Quality, quantity and price effects on household non-work travel

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date


Subject Area

planning - service quality, land use - urban density, ridership - commuting


Service quality, Quantities, Quality of service, Prices, Passenger service quality, Non-work trips, Households, Development density, California


Smart growth and transit-oriented development proponents advocate increasing the density of new land development and infill redevelopment. This is partly in order to reduce auto use, by reducing distances between trip origins and destinations, creating a more enjoyable walking environment, slowing down road travel, and increasing the market for transit. But research investigating how development density influences household travel has typically been inadequate to account for this complex set of hypotheses: it has used theoretically unjustified measures, has not accounted for spatial scale very well, and has not investigated potentially important combinations of measures. Using data from a survey of metropolitan households in California, measures of development density corresponding to the main hypotheses about how density affects travel--activity density affecting distance traveled, network load density affecting the speed of auto travel, and built form density affecting the quality of walking--are tested as independent variables in models of auto trip speed and individual non-work travel. Residential network load density is highly negatively correlated with the speed of driving, and is also highly correlated with non-work travel, both singly and in combination with other measures. Activity density and built form density are not as significantly related, on their own. These results suggest that denser development will not influence travel very much unless road level-of-service standards and parking requirements are reduced or eliminated.


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