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Density and the Journey to Work

  • David Levinson


    (Nexus (Networks, Economics, and Urban Systems) Research Group, Department of Civil Engineering, University of Minnesota)

  • Ajay Kumar

This paper evaluates the influence of residential density on commuting behavior across U.S. cities while controlling for available opportunities, the technology of transportation infrastructure, and individual socio-economic and demographic characteristics. The measures of metropolitan and local density are addressed separately. We suggest that metropolitan residential density serves principally as a surrogate for city size. We argue that markets react to high interaction costs found in large cities by raising density rather than density being a cause of those high costs. Local residential density measures relative location (accessibility) within the metropolitan region as well as indexing the level of congestion. We conduct regressions to predict commuting time, speed, and distance by mode of travel on a cross-section of individuals nationally and city by city. The results indicate that residential density in the area around the tripmaker's home is an important factor: the higher the density the lower the speed and the shorter the distance. However, density's effect on travel time is ambiguous, speed and distance are off-setting effects on time. The paper suggests a threshold density at which the decrease in distance is overtaken by the congestion effects, resulting in a residential density between 7,500 and 10,000 persons per square mile (neither the highest nor lowest) with the shortest duration auto commutes. .

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Paper provided by University of Minnesota: Nexus Research Group in its series Working Papers with number 199701.

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Date of creation: 1997
Date of revision:
Publication status: Published in Growth and Change 28:2 147-172.
Handle: RePEc:nex:wpaper:density
Contact details of provider: Postal: Dept. of Civil Engineering, 500 Pillsbury Drive SE, Minneapolis, MN 55455
Phone: +01 (612) 625-6354
Fax: +01 (612) 626-7750
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