Sunday, February 15, 2004

A recent World Bank study concluded that if Atlanta could somehow be remade into Boston, its annual vehicle miles traveled (VMT) would fall by 25 percent. Left unsaid was the fact that, in 1990-2000, the Boston metro area grew by 6.7 percent while the Atlanta metro area grew almost six times that, 38.9 percent. And so it goes.

Just last Sunday, the LA Times real estate section featured "New generation is right on track ... Transit villages appeal to home buyers who are willing to sacrifice square footage to be closer to rail stations." Towards the end of the article, there was brief mention of the huge subsidies involved in transit village development. Even larger subsidies to rail were not mentioned.

In 21st-century America, top-down land use planning is alive and well -- with predictable results. Pricey redistribution towards favored builders and little of the intended revitalization effect. The fact that people are steadily voting with their feet away from planners' favorite sites seems not to matter. Serious cost-benefit analysis is never considered. Whether it is World Bank economists or LA Times reporters, it is enough to simply presume that it's a good thing.