Late last month I reported on an Arizona Department of Transportation study that suggested that putting more people into smaller areas — or, in other words, increasing density — reduces traffic.
In the time since, a couple of articles have come out further parsing these findings. The first comes from Todd Litman of Planetizen, who explained in a blog post earlier this month why streets in higher density areas actually have less traffic:
This results from the lower vehicle trip generation, particularly for local errands, more walking and public transit travel, and because the more connected street networks offer more route options so traffic is less concentrated on a few urban arterials.
For example, when congestion is a problem you walk or bike to local stores rather than driving to a more distant shopping center, some commuters shift to alternative modes, and motorists can shift to less congested routes for some trips. These solutions are not possible on newer suburban communities where destinations are dispersed; walking, cycling and public transport inferior; and hierarchical road networks channel all traffic onto major arterials.
Kaid Benefield further examined the study, expressing skepticism that smart growth always reduces congestion.
But either way, the reality is that putting more people into a small area isn’t just better financially, ideologically, and for global competitiveness. As these two more recent articles suggest, density also translates into a more convenient, less congested lifestyle.