Smart Growth v. Suburbanization Score is 0-1
by Panos Prevedouros, PhD, FixOahu, December 11, 2014
The Economist: A Suburban World explains that urban trends are driven more by the masses and less by the political, academic and "environmental" elites that love to dictate how the hoi polloi should live.
In short, despite rules, penalties and incentives Smart Growth lost to Suburbanization. The following highlights from the article show why.
- The planet as a whole is fast becoming suburban. In the emerging world almost every metropolis is growing in size faster than in population. Having bought their Gucci handbags and Volkswagens, the new Asian middle class is buying living space, resulting in colossal sprawl.
- Neither the car nor the motorway caused suburban sprawl, although they sped it up: cities were spreading before either came along. Nor was the flight to the suburbs caused by racism. The real cause was mass affluence. As people grew richer, they demanded more privacy and space. Only a few could afford that in city centers; the rest moved out.
- Romantic notions of sociable, high-density living—notions pushed, for the most part, by people who themselves occupy rather spacious residences—ignore the squalor and lack of privacy [that comes with high density].
- The Western suburbs to which so many aspire are healthier than their detractors say. Even as urban centers revive, more Americans move from city center to suburb than go the other way.
- Suburbanites tend to use more roads and consume more carbon than urbanites. But this damage can be alleviated by a carbon tax, by toll roads and by charging for parking.
- It is foolish to try to stop the spread of suburbs. Green belts [urban boundary policies], the most effective method for doing this, push up property prices and encourage long-distance commuting.
- A wiser policy would be to plan for huge expansion. Acquire strips of land for roads and railways, and chunks for parks, before the city sprawls into them. This is not the dirigisme* of the new-town planner—that confident soul who believes he knows where people will want to live and work, and how they will get from one to the other. It is the realism needed to manage the inevitable.
(*) Dirigisme is an approach to economic development emphasizing the positive role of governmental intervention.