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.