How Does Social Status Drive Transit Opposition?

A new book explains how suburban dwellers have built "zoning rules, housing covenants and other mechanisms" to protect "their privileged place in the residential pecking order."
May 7, 2014, 1pm PDT | James Brasuell | @CasualBrasuell
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Robert Couse-Baker

Robert McCartney provides insight into a new book by Ben Ross, Dead End: Suburban Sprawl and the Rebirth of American Urbanism. Ross, a scientist by profession, "led the grass-roots campaign for the light-rail Purple Line in the Maryland suburbs for 15 years."

The book, according to McCartney, "is drawing praise for its well-researched analysis of why so many Americans live in widely dispersed, single-family homes and spend so many hours stuck in traffic."

"It also casts light on the cultural forces at play in major disputes gripping our region over affordable housing, the 'war on cars,' the Columbia Pike streetcar in Arlington, and the redevelopment of White Flint in Montgomery and Tysons Corner in Fairfax County."

McCartney focuses on Ross's argument that sprawl is a symptom of status-seeking obstructionists, or NIMBYs, who protect their interests with a system of "snob zoning."

Robert Steuteville also produced a detailed review of Dead End, calling it "the shrewdest book on the psychology of the built environment that I have read in a long time." 

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Published on Saturday, May 3, 2014 in The Washington Post
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