One common NIMBY argument is that new development is bad because it brings traffic. As I have pointed out elsewhere, this is silly because it is a “beggar thy neighbor” argument: the traffic doesn’t go away if you block the development, it just goes somewhere else.
But my argument assumed that new development would in fact bring traffic wherever it occurred. A new study by three North Carolina State University scholars suggests otherwise. The study concludes that “rural locations are more likely to experience an increase in traffic due to increased development as compared to urban land uses.” (p. 19). This is because “locations that did not experience a significant traffic increase… had a higher traffic volume before development”. (p. 20). This might be because those areas were “already highly saturated, which served as a major disincentive for the migration of traffic” (id.)
So in other words, if I am understanding this paper correctly, an already-congested area will not get much more congested with new development, because people react to congestion by going elsewhere or using slightly different routes. By contrast, when a basically uncongested area gets new development, the new development does not create enough traffic to scare off drivers.