Traffic Congestion OR Lack of Housing?
MYTH: Our traffic is caused by the housing density Sandy Springs has built over the past several years.
FACT: A full 94 out of 100 people have to drive INTO Sandy Springs to get to their jobs. It is simple logic that to decrease the traffic congestion we need to take them off the roads by increasing their housing options, so they do not have to “hit the roads” to begin with.
As urban researcher William Fulton put it,” Instead of building expensive roads, we could be building housing that limits how far people have to drive in the first place.”
For example, building a walkable community around City Center which includes more than 1,000 new housing options to our city created a walkable city center, with the City Green, restaurants, shopping, and event venue that all people benefit from. The employment center is a short drive or hop onto MARTA to either Perimeter Center or the Northside, Emory and Children’s hospital area. This live-work-play model significantly reduces out-of-town, incoming commuter traffic for those who live in this area.
In addition, a new mixed-use (retail, office and housing) development is being proposed at the old Parkside Shopping Center (where Egg Harbor restaurant is). This proposed mixed use re-development will require a change to the zoning to allow a 6-story building instead of the current three story limit; and will offer the same walkability and short commute to employment centers.
Both approaches are forward-thinking in land use. However, will the newest proposal include housing options for residents earning $50,000 a year or less? We have a shortage of 5,700 housing units for residents in this income bracket according to the recent HR&A Housing Needs Assessment Study.
The truth is that our traffic is caused because we do not have enough housing for those who want to live here and work here. Each day our city’s population of 110,000, doubles in size when an ADDITIONAL 111,786 employees commute to their jobs in Sandy Springs.
According to the Atlanta Regional Commission (ARC), our Sandy Springs Perimeter area is identified as one of the job magnets in the metro area: “These job magnets account for 21% of the region’s jobs but less than 1% of its geographic area, 14% of its housing units and less than 9% of its affordable housing.”
Further, “providing housing that offers easy access to jobs while remaining affordable for a wide range of residents is a challenge for communities all over the Atlanta region – as it is in many growing metro areas.”
The recent HR&A Housing Needs Assessment Report stated that our major employers are concerned that many of their employees earning $50,000 or less need to commute up to an hour or more to get to their jobs. Employers have stated they are concerned about being able to attract and retain a viable workforce.
Quoting William Fulton, “What’s not well understood, however, is that well-located housing can cut down on the amount of driving — and hence the need for additional road space — even if people are still tethered to their cars.”
It makes sense to solve problems and to not treat the symptoms with Band-Aids that “kick the problem down the road” (no pun intended). Look at what we are doing: Right now, the state and feds are spending almost $1,000,000,000 on the GA400 & I285 interchange. And it is merely pushing the problem further out…so MORE PEOPLE will be “hitting the road.”
Let us be smart: Addressing our traffic congestion by addressing housing is what many forward-thinking cities are doing. And we can do it too.