Are Planners Socialists for Trying To Encourage 'Livability'?

Conservative commentators criticize the Obama administration for supporting 'livability' programs, calling them social engineering. Neal Pierce argues that 'livability' is shorthand for a strategy that tackles a number of serious problems.

Pierce argues that the concept of livability is as American as apple pie, and that it is hardly a dictat for Americans to be forced out of their cars and onto buses.

He writes, "A federal finger on the scale in favor of compact, economical, resource-conserving development doesn't need to be as heavy as safety regulation. Key words in the administration's initiative are affordability, access, choices, connection, character of place, collaboration - hardly some kind of ruthless dictation. "

Full Story: "Livability" — Wimpy Term But Big Stakes For Us All
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Livability can be defined and measured against

One thing that bothered me about Ken Orski's e-newsletter that was referenced in this article is the notion that "livability" is an undefinable subjective term, and that the FDOT push was all about process and not outcomes. However I disagree. Planning is a way of systematizing subjective terms. We have methodologies for defining affordable, historic, and sustainable. As planners we are also in the process of defining and systematizing livable. The FDOT has defined 6 criteria of livability and academics and practitioners are filling in the blanks with processes for measuring against those criteria.

I read something recently that bears repeating: Level of Service, the sacred cow of automobile oriented transportation planning, is nothing more than a systematizing of a subjective feeling. ITE is now applying level of service metrics to pedestrian environments, and transportation modelers are factoring pedestrian and bike activity into the micro simulations. So there you have it, livability becomes a viable objective.

The problem is as Neal points out semantic. Nobody wants to be told their preferred urban form is un- or less livable.

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