“As urban areas become more congested, and concerns over the environmental damage that can be caused by vehicle emissions grow, many municipalities are adopting land use guidelines that encourage compact development. A city with greater density, they theorize, will reduce the need to drive by bringing services and retail closer to the areas in which people live.
But new research co-authored by Wharton real estate professor Gilles Duranton finds that such policies may not have as great an effect as planners believe. In “Urban Form and Driving: Evidence from U.S. Cities,” Duranton and Brown University professor Matthew A. Turner find that increases in density cause only minimal decreases in aggregate driving, meaning it is unlikely to be a cost-effective policy for responding to traffic congestion or automobile-related pollution.
Duranton recently talked with Knowledge@Wharton about their findings and how they might be applied by businesses or governments.
An edited transcript of the conversation appears below.“