Report Offers Better Ways to Cut Traffic from New Development

Will a new development “bring traffic”?

That’s a weighty question for cities around the country facing public pressure about development proposals. In response many cities have established “mitigation” rules, that require the developers to, for example, add parking, or widen roads to “relieve” future traffic, before they can construct an apartment or office building, for example.

But these “mitigation” efforts rely on pseudoscientific, and disproven assumptions, according to a new report from Smart Growth America. Unfortunately, they have been codified, widely adopted and are rarely questioned. Worse, many common mitigation techniques encourage car use and make walking and other alternatives to driving less attractive, actually increasing traffic.

For example, the presence of a free parking space is a strong incentive for driving to work. Studies have found that New Yorkers who are provided a free parking space are 45 percent more likely to drive into traffic-choked Manhattan for work. Another study in New Jersey found that the availability of a parking space was a better predictor of whether residents of transit-oriented developments would drive to work than access to transit.

But there’s a better way. Smart Growth America, with the Mayors’ Innovation Project and the State Smart Transportation Initiative, suggest a bold new framework for traffic mitigating called “Transportation Demand Management.”

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