An important current policy debate concerns whether the next U.S. federal surface transportation reauthorization should require spending on “enhancements,” which finance projects such as walkways, bike paths, highway landscaping and historic preservation. This issue receives considerable attention, despite the fact that enhancements represent less than 2% of total federal surface transportation expenditures, because it raises questions about future transport priorities, particularly the role of walking and cycling. In other words, should non-motorized modes be considered real transportation.
Let me tell you a scary story that you can use to frighten fellow planners at next week’s Halloween party. It’s not just fun and games – this story is true and may cause nightmares.
“The only thing we have to fear is fear itself—nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance” – President Franklin D. Roosevelt, 1932
This being the decade anniversary of the World Trade Center and Pentagon terrorist attacks, it seems a good time to consider how our society responds to such threats, and what planners can do to maximize safety.
Note: This column was originally titled, "A Stupid Attack on Smart Growth," intended as a pun on 'smart' and 'stupid.' However, that sounds harsh so I retitled it. - T.L.
The National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) has a well-financed campaign to discourage communities from considering smart growth as a possible way to conserve energy and reduce pollution emissions. They contend that compact development has little effect on travel activity and so provides minimal benefits. The NAHB states that, “The existing body of research demonstrates no clear link between residential land use and GHG emissions.” But their research actually found the opposite: it indicates that smart growth policies can have significant impacts on travel activity and emissions.
Most professions have special responsibilities to society. Physicians are expected to observe the Hippocratic oath. Police officers must apply the law fairly and refrain from abusing their power. Lawyers and accountants are expected to offer accurate advice and protect client confidentiality.
And planners? We have a special responsibility to consider all perspectives and impacts. When evaluating public policy questions most people ask selfishly, “How does this affect me?” Planners, in contrast, should ask selflessly, “How does this affect the community, particularly disadvantaged and underrepresented groups?”