Michael Lewyn is an assistant professor at Touro Law Center in Long Island.
In the 1990s, most public argument about suburban expansion was pretty simple. Environmentalists argued that sprawl increased pollution, while their opponents responded by invoking the free market. Environmentalists and other sprawl critics (including myself) responded that sprawl is the result less of the free market than of government subsidy and regulation.
Recently I have started to notice hints of a not-so-libertarian argument for sprawl: that pro-sprawl government policies such as highway construction open up real estate for development, and thus make housing affordable.
Thursday, October 25, 2012 - 9:18am PDT
The conventional wisdom among Americans who spend
lots of time thinking about public transit is that four more years of Obama
will be good news, and the election of the Romney-Ryan ticket would be
bad. I have to admit that this belief is
by no means completely irrational: after all, President Romney will be much
less likely than President Obama to veto a transportation bill passed by a
Republican Congress, and might propose a mere austere budget than President Obama. Nevertheless, I
think there are good reasons to believe otherwise.
Thursday, October 11, 2012 - 10:56pm PDT
Decades ago, ecologist Garrett Hardin wrote about the "tragedy of the commons"- when an action that is rational for one person becomes irrational when widely practiced.
For example, suppose that there are a few dozen cattle
ranchers near a pasture open to all. It
makes sense for each rancher to let as many cattle graze as possible on the
pasture, so that the ranchers can feed their cattle without buying additional
land. But if every rancher lets as many
cattle as possible graze, sooner or later the land will be overgrazed and the
cattle may starve.
Monday, August 27, 2012 - 2:01pm PDT
In the early 1990s, transportation politics at both the state and federal levels was often fairly simple: an all-powerful Road Gang (made up of real estate developers and road contractors) typically got whatever it wanted, rolling over a much weaker pro-transit coalition of environmentalists and urban politicians.
Tuesday, August 7, 2012 - 10:41am PDT
A couple of months ago, I wrote a blog post
comparing the safety of inner suburbs and outer suburbs. (See http://www.planetizen.com/node/56468
My post showed that (in least in the metropolitan areas I looked at) inner
suburbs were safer than outer suburbs, because violent deaths from murder and
traffic combined were lower in the former.
Sunday, July 15, 2012 - 11:02am PDT
Arguments over transportation policy often run as follows:
HIGHWAY SUPPORTER: Highways pay for themselves! Buses/trains don't! So highways good and everything else bad bad bad!
TRANSIT SUPPORTER: But highways create bad externalities like pollution and climate change! So if highways were taxed at their true cost gas would cost a zillion billion cajillion dollars per gallon!
(followed by numerous counterarguments and counter-counterarguments that I won't bore you with, except as written below...)
It seems to me that these arguments miss one point: even if the highway system as a whole pays for itself, the system is so chock full of cross-subsidies that each individual road doesn't (except for toll roads).
Tuesday, June 26, 2012 - 9:30am PDT
I occasionally have speculated that our aging society would lead to increased transit ridership, as seniors lost the ability to drive. But I recently discovered that seniors are actually less likely to use public transit than the general public. One study by the American Public Transit Association showed that 6.7% of transit riders are over 65 (as opposed to 12.4% of all Americans).(1) The oldest Americans are even more underrepresented on America's buses and trains: only 1.5% of transit riders are over 80, about half their share of the population (2). The only other age group that is underrepresented on public transit is Americans under 18.
Thursday, May 17, 2012 - 9:14pm PDT
William Lucy of the University of Virginia has written
extensively on the question of whether outer suburbs are safer than cities or
inner suburbs; he argues, based on traffic fatality data, that outer suburbs are
certainly less safe than inner suburbs, and maybe even less safe than
However, Lucy’s analysis is not particularly
fine-grained: it analyzes data county-by-county, rather than town-by-town.
What’s wrong with this? Often, suburban
cities within a county are quite diverse: some share the characteristics of
inner suburbs (e.g. some public transit) while others look more like exurbs. So I wondered whether there is any significant 'safety gap" between inner and outer suburbs.
Sunday, April 29, 2012 - 1:04pm PDT
After the Census Bureau released population estimates showing that core counties were (at least in some metro areas) growing faster than exurban counties, the media was full of headlines about this alleged trend. An extreme example came from the Washington Post: "An end to America's exurbia?" (1)
Monday, April 16, 2012 - 8:33am PDT
A couple of weeks ago, Todd Litman made a blog entry on
logical fallacies in planning.*
looking at the list of possible fallacies at the end of his post, I thought I would show some
(hopefully not too common) examples of these fallacies:
Ad hominem (arguing against the person rather than the
argument) – “Smart growth is in the U.N's Agenda 21 so we have to fight it to stop the U.N's plan to socialize the world.” “Concern about urban
containment is just another example of Tea Party extremism.”
Anageon (relying on inevitability)- “Sprawl is inevitable,
so there’s nothing we can do about it.”
Thursday, April 5, 2012 - 5:25pm PDT