Lack Of Viable Transit Plans Keeps Cars As Best Option

In this article from The Toronto Star, Wendell Cox looks at the "draconian" land use restrictions that have been imposed by planners in Toronto, and how despite planners bemoaning auto-dependency, no one has offered a viable transit plan.

"Unfortunately, smart growth is mainly rooted in ideology that denies reality. This is to the great risk of people, cities and the future."

"Take, for example, the policy objective of reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Smart growth says people will have to live at higher densities and use transit instead of cars. The reality could not be more different. A recent University of Sydney (Australia) study, for example, associated higher per capita GHG emissions with the highrise condominiums planners love, and lower emissions with automobile-oriented suburbs."

"The reality is that suburbanization and the car have been associated with an unprecedented expansion of wealth in high-income nations. Home ownership has risen from approximately 40 per cent before World War II to more than 65 per cent today. This has led to a virtual 'democratization of prosperity,' that would not have occurred without the suburban development on cheap fringe land that the planners demonize. Further, the cars have provided mobility to rapidly access virtually the entire urban area, something impossible when cities had only transit."

"The bottom line is that, despite all of their platitudes, no planning regime has ever proposed a workable transit plan that would replicate the mobility of the automobile or the urban economic productivity it has created."

Full Story: Planners denying reality



Wendell Cox Denies Realty

"A recent University of Sydney (Australia) study, for example, associated higher per capita GHG emissions with the highrise condominiums planners love, and lower emissions with automobile-oriented suburbs."

As I recall, that study looked at a very small number of highrise condominiums in the suburbs, and those highrises had higher ghg emissions than lower density housing in the suburbs. There was such a small number of highrises involved that this was an outlier case that cannot be generalized.

By contrast, extensive studies by Holtzclaw and by Newman and Kenworthy show that higher density neighborhoods and cities have lower VMT and therefore lower GHG emissions. I recent study of the SF Bay area produced a map of GHG emissions that shows they map perfectly to density: the lower the density, the greater the emissions.

"the cars have provided mobility to rapidly access virtually the entire urban area"

Note that this contradicts what he said about GHG emissions. If people are driving across entire urban areas, and if these urban areas are low density so they have to drive long distances, then those people are obviously emitting lots of CO2.

Wendell Cox is denying reality in a dangerous way. His real argument always has been: people like to drive, so people should drive. This argument has become dangerous in the age of global warming.

If anyone believes that Wendell Cox is really interested in reducing greenhouse gas emissions, please contact me. I know a high official of the Nigerian government who needs your help to move a large amount of money out of his country.

Charles Siegel

Correlation vs. causation

I'm not sure if this is the same study, but the Australian Conservation Foundation and the University of Sydney recently came out with an analysis entitled "Consuming Australia". It found that wealthy people (perhaps the type who can afford to live in highrise condominiums) also tend to do more shopping for things like clothes, appliances, and air travel than the less wealthy, and producing them requires electricity and therefore emits greenhouse gases. So yes, it's entirely possible to associate highrise condominiums with higher per capita greenhouse gas emissions than automobile-oriented suburbs, if you twist the statistics properly.

Highrise Australia And Greenhouse Gases

Interesting. The high-rise residents probably have lower than average emissions from transportation, as all the planning studies say, but more because they are more affluent.

I didn't notice that Cox said "per capita emissions" - meaning all their greenhouse gas emissions, not just emissions that have anything to do with land use and transporation.

He certainly is twisting the statistics, as you say.

Charles Siegel

Cox A Black Sheep For Good Reason

Basically every argument he raised in this article was completely refuted by the companion article that was run right next to in the The Star: 'We must exit road to crisis' at

  • Wendell Cox sounds like Randal O'Toole to me ... more lunchmeat

    Automobiles are wonderful! Not only for the workers who build them, but for the people who drive them, and those who live in the environments shaped to faciliate our superb mobility.

    Take a look at Detroit, Michigan (my hometown), if you want to see a good example of the benefits of our car culture. Truly, Broadacre City! Each day, Dad leaves his quarter-acre paradise, and drives to work on an extremely well-engineered parkway, while Mom stays home, cooks, drives the kids to school, soccer, and then drives to her health club to walk on the treadmill and maintain her girlish figure.

    Sorry. But give me a break. Smart growth may be the "cause" of some small part of higher housing prices, but what about speculative greed and "irrational exhuberance?" Is the author suggesting that we throw planning out the window and let market forces solve all our problems? Let the economists, scientists, and the technologists remake the world in the image of their machine-God? I'd rather throw my luck in with the Planners, who, in spite of their human foibles and tendency to make mistakes, at least on occasion are honest about the values they serve. That is, to serve the common good, to protect the environment, and to seek a sustainable future for our children and our grandchildren.

    I know, for myself, that public transit is and can be an effective option. I ride a bus to work and back each day and it saves me money and is much more enjoyable than driving would be. Takes about 10 minutes longer than driving. Yeah, I have to plan a little better than I would if I drove every day, but it's worth it. As well, since I have to walk a bit to and from the bus stop each day -- I have a free exercise regime thrown in.

    I have a lot of respect for my neighbors across Lake Ontario. I would be suprised to see Mr. Cox's disengenous arguments gain much traction in Toronto.

    Our Poor Air Quality Plans Keeps Bottled Oxygen As Best Option

    Wendell Cox is paid to say the things he says.

    Whether he or his adherents actually believe them is another topic.

    Nonetheless, the argumentation he employs is defeatist in the extreme: Our current options aren't that great, and we shouldn't think about improving them. Thus we can't do anything except maintain the status quo. Oh, yes: we can trumpet the current unsustainable system that benefits a few vested interests.

    If we employed this argumentation throughout all our systems, we'd never advance our technology, our culture, or society.

    IOW: Yay! Don't try to get better! Clap louder everyone!



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