Why Do Americans Hate High Residential Densities?

By Dom Nozzi

Most Americans dislike density because they are so utterly car-dependent. Since cars consume vast amounts of space, higher density is despised because, by definition, density creates compact, human-scaled spaces. Therefore, it is an awful aggravation to own a car in a dense place. Given this, Americans understandably are violently opposed to density. By being a motorist, one has a strong vested interest in opposing density. Even “greens” and “liberals” (many of whom are motorists) often oppose higher densities.

The photo below illustrates the problem. With just a tiny number of people in an area (in this case, 40 people), there is gridlock. No surprise, then, that there is growing bi-partisan support for a “no growth” agenda. Both Democrats and Republicans now join in opposing density and growth (which they view as the beginning of road and parking lot congestion — for a motorist, congestion is Armageddon).

One thing the photo clearly demonstrates is that since only 40 cars are needed to congest a street, it is nearly impossible for a healthy city to not have congestion. And that widening a road will almost immediately re-congest when a few more cars are added.

The solution should be obvious: don’t widen roads.

Instead, create design that allows those who cannot tolerate the congestion to avoid it: connected parallel streets, more density, more transit, more mixed use (housing interspersed with jobs and shopping), staggered work hours, and so on.


Visit my urban design website read more about what I have to say on those topics. You can also schedule me to give a speech in your community about transportation and congestion, land use development and sprawl, and improving quality of life.

Visit: www.walkablestreets.wordpress.com

Or email me at: dom[AT]walkablestreets.com

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1 Comment

Filed under Miscellaneous, Politics, Road Diet, Sprawl, Suburbia, Urban Design

One response to “Why Do Americans Hate High Residential Densities?

  1. Andy McGill

    And except for the cars, the 40 people would live like their ancestors did in the 1800s and never go more than 20 miles from their home in their entire life.

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