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The impact of residential growth patterns on vehicle travel and pollutant emissions


  • Niemeier, Deb

    () (University of California, Davis)

  • Bai, Song

    () (University of California, Davis)

  • Handy, Susan L.

    () (University of California, Davis)


In light of the increasing reliance on compact growth as a fundamental strategy for reducing vehicle emissions, it is important to better understand how land use-transportation interactions influence the production of mobile source emissions. To date, research findings have produced mixed conclusions as to whether compact development as a strategy for accommodating urban growth significantly reduces vehicle travel and, by extension, mitigates environmental impacts, particularly in the area of air quality. Using an integrated simulation approach coupled with long-term land development scenarios, we conducted an assessment of the impacts of different long-term primarily residential growth patterns on vehicle travel and pollutant emissions in the eight counties of the San~Joaquin Valley region in central California. The results suggest that higher residential densities result in slightly decreased regional vehicle travel and emissions. Our comparative analysis also suggests that the effects of future land use growth patterns may vary among different spatial areas. That is, compact growth strategies can result in significantly more travel and emissions changes in already fairly urbanized counties. This work indicates a minimum density threshold of approximately \num{1500} households per square mile is necessary to achieve commensurate emissions reductions relative to existing densities.

Suggested Citation

  • Niemeier, Deb & Bai, Song & Handy, Susan L., 2011. "The impact of residential growth patterns on vehicle travel and pollutant emissions," The Journal of Transport and Land Use, Center for Transportation Studies, University of Minnesota, vol. 4(3), pages 65-80.
  • Handle: RePEc:ris:jtralu:0069

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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Cited by:

    1. Jacques, Cynthia & Ahmed M. El-Geneidy, Ahmed M. El-Geneidy, 2014. "Does travel behavior matter in defining urban form? A quantitative analysis characterizing distinct areas within a region," The Journal of Transport and Land Use, Center for Transportation Studies, University of Minnesota, vol. 7(1), pages 1-14.
    2. Houshmand E. MASOUMI, 2014. "A Theoretical Approach To Capabilities Of The Traditional Urban Form In Promoting Sustainable Transportation," Theoretical and Empirical Researches in Urban Management, Research Centre in Public Administration and Public Services, Bucharest, Romania, vol. 9(1), pages 44-60, February.

    More about this item


    Planning; Residential density; VMT; Air quality;

    JEL classification:

    • R40 - Urban, Rural, Regional, Real Estate, and Transportation Economics - - Transportation Economics - - - General


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