Monday, July 18, 2016

Dumb idea sticking around

Wendell Cox reports that the latest data show that there are "Shorter commutes in American Suburbs and Exurbs". He means in terms of travel time, the only thing that matters. This has been known for some time but is apparently counter-intuitive to many. The old Costs of Sprawl notion still lives: spread out cities must mean longer trips -- and more uncompensated externalities. This must mean that central planning ("Smart Growth") is needed -- and will somehow make things better. Anything goes.

But think for a minute. Cities (metropolitan areas) compete for labor and capital. They must provide settings that are attractive. Locators (labor and capital) evaluate sites, contemplate many trade-offs (everyone considers commute times and access to a variety of destinations) and bid for space accordingly. Markets are always there and do not tolerate unsustainable (that word) waste.

Yes, markets also internalize many externalities. Location choice means that, among other things, locators look at local external costs and benefits.

As in all other areas (watch Cleveland this week), dumb ideas stick around. They do not stay around forever but often a very long time.