High Density = High Traffic = High Pollution

Common sense tells us that cramming 500  condos onto twelve acres of land will create more traffic and pollution than putting 50 single family homes on the same parcel. But common sense isn’t always the prevailing wisdom so it is nice to see this article on the newgeography.com website.

For years, regional  transportation plans, public officials, and urban planners have been seeking to  densify urban areas, using strategies referred to as “smart growth” or “livability.”  They have claimed that densifying urban areas would lead to lower levels of air  pollution, principally because it is believed to reduce travel by car. In fact,  however, EPA data show that higher population densities are strongly associated with higher  levels of automobile travel and more intense air pollution emissions from cars  and other highway vehicles. In short, higher emissions cause people to breathe  more in air pollution, which can be unhealthful. (emphasis mine)


To put in the economic terms that appear so often in  planning literature on “urban sprawl,” more intense traffic  congestion and the consequent higher air pollution emissions are negative  externalities of smart growth and densification.


There are myriad difficulties  with smart growth and livability policies, not least their association with  higher housing prices, a higher cost of living, muted economic growth, and decreased  mobility and access to jobs in metropolitan areas. As the EPA data show, the  densification policies of smart growth and livability also make air pollution  worse for people at risk.

Alpharetta voters should take the time to read the entire article linked above because the new Comprehensive Land Use Plan being proposed by Alpharetta’s Community Development Department calls for more of the same high density developments which exacerbate the traffic issues we already face.

2 thoughts on “High Density = High Traffic = High Pollution

  1. Agreed that 500 condos on 12 acres will increase traffic but calling that smart growth is misrepresenting the term smart growth. Creating a responsible mix of single family, condo / townhome, retail and green space with pedestrian and bike friendly areas would be smart growth.

    • Bob- We have had this discussion before and I agree with what you are saying.

      But the Prospect Park, Windward Mill and Peridot projects approved in Alpharetta don’t meet your criteria. Those high density “smart growth” projects will contain about 1500 high rise condos without a single detached family home. My opponent, Cheryl Oakes, personally voted for Windward Mill which could contain a 15 story condominium tower and add more than 12,000 car trips to one of the most congested intersections in town.

      Those aren’t the kind of developments you describe and the only thing keeping them from impacting Alpharetta’s quality of life is our nation’s current recession.

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