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Research on Factors Relating to Density and Climate Change

A June 2010 survey of research explores the potential of residential density to reduce climate change by reducing vehicle miles driver.

"Research on Factors Relating to Density and Climate Change," written for the National Association of Home Builders by Abt associates, summarizes and synthesizes the literature in several key areas.

"The research on the relationship between density and travel is virtually unanimous: after controlling for socioeconomic factors, density directly influences VMT and mode choice," the report notes. "However, the weight of the evidence suggests that the effect of density on travel behavior is modest (roughly 5 percent reductions in VMT and vehicle trips with a doubling of density). In comparison, large increases in regional accessibility (accessibility to regional centers), are found to have a much larger impact on travel behavior – roughly 20 percent reductions in VMT.

The report cites three primary factors affecting the relationship between residential density and the climate via travel behavior. First is the trend toward decentralization of employment from city centers. The second factor is the increasing number of households with two workers who often commute to different locations. The third factor is the recent increase in non-work trips.

Read the executive summary and download the full report