Thursday, December 28, 2006

A good year for urban economics

I had earlier blogged (as have many others) about Bob Bruegmann's wonderful Sprawl: A Compact History. Then came Wendell Cox's excellent War on the Dream.

Now we get William Bogart's delightful Don't Call It Sprawl. What a year, to find all of these. Teachers of urban economics and their students are very fortunate.

Here is one of many superb passages from Bogart.

A fundamental misunderstanding of how metropolitan areas work has hampered the current debate on the causes and consequences of urban sprawl. This misunderstanding is analogous to the pre-Copernican fallacy that the earth is the center of the universe, and everything revolves around the earth. In the discussion of urban sprawl, the downtown or central city takes the place of the earth in the Ptolemaic cosmology, and the rest of the metropolitan area is defined only in relation to the downtown.

It is possible for the basic urban structure of a metropolitan area to change over time. Such a change has been occurring in U.S. metropolitan areas for the last 100 years, and the change is coming to fruition at the beginning of the new century. To plan for future urban growth, it is vital to recast our understanding of how urban areas operate. (p. 41)