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Densification and urban compaction: reinforcing the drive for sustainability.

Cooper, James A; Donegan, Karen S; Ryley, Timothy John; Smyth, Austin; Granzow, Edward


James A Cooper

Karen S Donegan

Timothy John Ryley

Austin Smyth

Edward Granzow


The consumer response to sustainable development initiatives provided the focus for a series of research projects undertaken at the Transport Research Institute at Napier University. Evidence of the relationship between residential density and travel behavior is presented. Results are presented from a large household survey undertaken in four settlement classes within one key commuter corridor of the Belfast City (Northern Ireland, United Kingdom) region to determine their comparative sustainability in terms of travel behavior. It can be concluded that wide-scale land use policies can achieve significant reductions in overall private vehicle travel in urban areas. Densification is best suited to established urban areas and for influencing modal shift primarily to walking rather than public transit. The work also suggests that a more focused approach to planning decisions reflecting housing market segment preferences could yield a win-win situation for house owners and developers, albeit at the expense of some reduction in residential plot size. Local changes can bring global benefits. A great challenge falls to the urban designer to ensure that such trade-offs do not unduly undermine quality of life. Further thoughts are provided on the implications for policy makers in car-dominated cities in the United States.


Cooper, J. A., Donegan, K. S., Ryley, T. J., Smyth, A., & Granzow, E. (2002). Densification and urban compaction: reinforcing the drive for sustainability. Transportation research record, 1817, 102-109.

Journal Article Type Article
Publication Date Jan 1, 2002
Deposit Date Apr 24, 2008
Print ISSN 0361-1981
Publisher National Academy of Sciences
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 1817
Pages 102-109
Keywords Cities; Households; Land use; Modal shift; Policy; Policy making; Population density; Housing plot-size reduction; Quality of life; Sustainable development; Travel behavior; Travel surveys; Reduced traffic; Urban design; Walking; Belfast (Northern Ireland
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