Traffic is a big deal when it comes to real estate development. Residents are almost always concerned about the additional traffic that a development might bring to their community. And who can really blame them. They’re frustrated by traffic as it is in the city and so they naturally assume that more residents in their community will translate into more cars on the road.
But as natural as this reaction might seem, I don’t believe that opposing intensification is the right long-term solution. In fact, I would argue that the question of traffic is a bit of a red herring. Because as Toronto’s Chief Planner Jennifer Keesmaat explains in this blog post, density can actually go a long way to reducing traffic congestion. And it does that by placing people closer to where they work, and by creating an environment that’s more conducive to other forms of mobility: walking, biking, and public transport.
So instead of becoming fixated on traffic, I think there’s another, perhaps more relevant, question that we should be asking ourselves: Will this development, over the longer term, help to encourage a modal split that leads to more transit usage and less driving?
Because if it doesn’t, well then we’re not doing anything to correct the problem we already have. In fact, if we don’t allow intensification to happen, it means we’re simply pushing demand outwards, horizontally. And the more you push people out of a city, the more likely they are to drive. In which case we’re only delaying the inevitable – which is more traffic.