Monday, January 31, 2005

Really Smart Growth

Today's WSJ included a special section on "The Top Ten Trends in Ten Industries". Some are familiar. Yet, picking and/or ranking things like this may be thought of as a fool's errand. As always, the future will be full of surprises. But, trend spotting is fun.

Architecture trend #6 is "Cars vs No Cars ... Despite loud protests from smart-growth advocates, the rapid spread of suburban-style sprawl isn't slowing. Yet, there's a parallel movement of dwellers into more pedestrian-friendly communities, closer to downtown ..."

Yes and no. Last Monday's post cited the 2001 National Household Travel Survey. Comparing it to its 1990 precursor, trips per person were up in all places by all modes for all purposes. Rising incomes will do that.

We tend not to price travel correctly and that is one of our huge domestic policy failures. (We compound the error by spending hugely on ineffective second-best policies.) Given all that and sharply rising incomes, flexible land markets come to the rescue and "impending gridlock" remains forever impending (Steve Polzin's way of putting it). It's really quite amazing.

So, let's strive to keep flexible land markets free and flexible. Freer is better. Let's call that Really Smart Growth.