Three Studies show Density doesn’t Determine Car Travel

Recent research sheds new light on the critical issue of the link between car travel and urban density. Conventional planning wisdom has it that increasing development density bestows benefits, most importantly that of reducing driving. This effect seems almost self-evident: more compaction, shorter distances, lower VMTs. Peter Newman and Jeffrey Kenworthy’s (1989) Cities and Automobile Dependence reinforced this intuitive assumption with their extensive and in-depth study (1986) which effectively sealed the case for thirty years. But recent research, in tandem with results from actual developments, shows that this relationship is complex and the study that etched it imperfect. We extract and connect findings from three studies to show that our understanding of what induces, or reduces, driving is incomplete – common sense is insufficient.