benefits of density

There are social, convenience, economic, and environmental benefits of living in places of higher density if they are designed to be mixed-use, walkable, and pedestrian scale. Higher density is essential for creating lively places with lots of amenities. It allows for beautiful public spaces, for lots of people walking, low car use, and makes life convenient and enjoyable by providing many amenities within close proximity of each other. Having a number of good corner stores, deli's, restaurants, cafes, and other personal services within walking distance of most homes delivers a higher quality of life to all residents of a town or city. Increased density greatly reduces driving, traffic congestion, and vast amounts of air pollution that come with it. Nationwide, there is a growing consumer preference for places of higher density providing desired urban amenities.

popular urban places are high density

Nearly every great city, town, and neighborhood around the world are of higher density, and why everyone loves living there, and why so many tourists go there on holiday. Great examples of high-density walkable environments include San Franciscoís Victorian Ďpainted ladiesí, Brooklynís brown-stones, Bostonís Back Bay neighborhood, Washington DCís Georgian townhouses, and much of London, Paris, Italy, and the rest of historic Europe.

Most early American cities built before 1945 were designed with higher densities, and are now the places with the highest property values, and are some of the most sought after places to live. These examples demonstrate a building form of high-density elegance, human scale, and walkable urbanity. A more modern example of higher density is South Beach in Miami, with an average density of around 30 to 35 units per acre in mostly low-rise buildings of only 2-4 stories, with little or no parking on site. People love the place. With everything all together in a human-scale urban setting, more than half the residents donít need to drive a car for a majority of their needs. This level of density makes it possible for many residents to forgo the expense and hassle of owning and maintaining a car, which can cost upwards of $8,000 per year.

San Francisco

low density zoning causes more sprawl

Many municipalities wrongly down-zone large areas thinking this will spread out development and prevent traffic congestion. It does exactly the reverse as the spread out nature of places with people living in single-use pods of development forces everyone to drive to everything they need, resulting in increased congestion. This is why the lowest density suburban areas are the places with the worst traffic congestion. The solution is the building of compact, walkable, mixed-use communities of higher densities starting at an average of 15-20 units per acre, and going up from there.


High-quality transit systems connecting walkable areas together reduce auto use

low density is more expesive to build & maintain

The more spread out everything is, the more costly it is to provide municipal services such as roads, water and sewer, utilities, and emergency services. With less homes and businesses per mile of services, there is less revenue coming in to pay for these services, and therefore they are also more expensive to maintain.


This publication provides readers with an understanding of the connections between smart growth and density; highlights the success of nine community-led efforts to create vibrant compact neighborhoods; and introduces five time tested design principles to ensure that density becomes a community asset and not a liability.  View the report 


great book:

Visualizing Density
by Campoli and MacLean

By far the best book explaining and demonstrating what the range of densities look and feel like.

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more information

New Study:  Walkable Cities are the Solution

Principles of New Urbanism

Urban Design

Measuring the Health Effects of Sprawl

Active Living Network

Health Effects of Sprawl

Sierra Club Report How Sprawl Harms Our Health

Less Sprawl, Less Fat, Less Frenzy

Environmental Defense Report on Transportation, Sprawl, and Health

More Links From Transact

"Virtual Is No Refuge From Reality" by James Kunstler

Transit Oriented Development

Transportation for Livable Communities

Envision Utah Smart Growth

Global Warming

new urbanism

green transportation



Read about the costs of sprawl

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