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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Urban Densities and Transit: A Multi-dimensional Perspective


This paper investigates the relationship between transit and urban densities in the United States. An analysis of light rail systems finds that a residential density of about 30 people per gross acre near stations is needed to in order to make them among the top 25 percent of rail transit investments in terms of cost effectiveness; for heavy rail systems, the density is 45 people per gross acre. Increasing density around stations would greatly increase ridership, particularly when jobs are located within one-quarter mile of the stations and housing is located within one-half mile. Stakeholders in the small city of Stockton found high levels of density unacceptable, and supported transit improvements, such as bus rapid transit, only when there would be no impact on private vehicle traffic.

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