You Got to Be Kidding Me!

A Myth Inside The Myth

Posted in Economics, Four Wheels, Politics, Urban Planning by Stacy McMahon on January 28, 2007

Glenn Reynolds links an article in today’s WaPo entitled “5 Myths About Suburbia and Our Car-Happy Culture“. It cites statistics and does some basic math to show that cars aren’t destroying the ozone layer as some alarmists would have it, that Europeans drive almost as much as Americans, and that (as I’ve mentioned previously) we are in no danger of paving over the last green acre in North America . All of which is true, but it leads the authors to the following stretch:

Many officials say we should reconfigure the landscape — pack people in more tightly — to make it fit better with a transit-oriented lifestyle. But that would mean increasing density in existing developments by bulldozing the low-density neighborhoods that countless families call home. Single-family houses, malls and shops would have to make way for a stacked-up style of living that most don’t want. And even then the best-case scenario would be replicating New York, where only one in four commuters uses mass transit.

You hear this a lot from folks who don’t like the sound of the term “urban planning”, but the critical point they always miss is that the supersized suburbia they’re defending is absolutely not an outcome of the free market. The choice of land to build on, how much of a lot can be covered by a house, what kind of house it can be, whether houses and businesses can be in the same neighborhood, even (I’ve seen this) the length of shadow a house can cast on the neighbor’s yard, all make land development one of the most regulated and constrained industries in the United States. And every urban area in the country has that kind of zoning ordinance and building code. You can’t say “most don’t want” a different kind of landscape, because the building industry can’t legally offer them the choice!

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One Response

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  1. Clint said, on January 29, 2007 at 11:36 am

    Interesting that I can read pages 2 and 3 of the article, but not page 1, not without a login. (This must be why I never use WashingtonPost.com….)

    Anyway… Too bad the EPA lost a lot of credibility when they told everyone the post-sept 11th air was perfectly fine (and it wasn’t). I woudn’t trust my lungs to their stats; people who did on 911 will suffer for the rest of their life for beliving the EPA’s lies. They are not necessarily loyal to the people…


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