Impact of Compact Development on Travel

NRC Reports on Impact of “Compact Development” on Motor Vehicle Travel (September 1, 2009) – The National Research Council of the National Academies released the results of a study, requested by Congress, of the relationship between land development patterns and motor vehicle travel in the U.S. In The Effects of Compact Development on Motorized Travel, Energy Use, and CO2 Emissions, researchers report their conclusion that, by 2050, the reductions in vehicle miles traveled, energy use and CO2 emissions that would result from more compact, mixed-use development would range from less than 1 percent to 11 percent, compared to a base case. The panel of researchers disagreed, however, over whether the changes in development patterns and the public policies necessary to achieve the high end of the reduction range are feasible. In a press release, the National Academies state, “Assuming compact development is focused on new and replacement housing – as converting existing housing to higher densities could be prohibitively difficult – significant increases in density would result in modest short-term reductions in personal travel, energy use, and CO2 emissions. However, these reductions will grow over time.” For further information: