The Political Divides of Pollution-Free Cities

a zone model (urban planning)
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Hard truths about why conservatives and libertarians hate urbanism (Market Urbanism, Nov.20, 2010)

Also discussed here: Why conservatives don’t seem to like urbanism (Greater Ottawa, Nov. 22, 2010)

Today’s review article looks at the apparent contradiction between views held by conservatives and the pollution-free cities that could be achieved by curbing sprawl and  smart growth. Fault is found with urban planners for sometimes neglecting the power of market forces as well as the tendency for bipolar political debates between liberals and conservatives or the urban/suburban split, while ignoring more subtle compromises that do not spring from one side or the other.

Key Quotes:

“an urban environment is a delicate and organic thing, and a successful neighbourhood is inherently heavily regulated (with everything from noise bylaws to snow-clearing rules) and subsidized (with transit, police coverage, and everything else a decent city has), and leaving land-use decisions out of that mix seems like a bad idea”

“Beyond their voiced hostility towards capitalism, planners too often pass by obvious free market solutions in favor of mandates that are opposite from, but just as restrictive as the status quo.”

“when density is allowed, it is often contingent on developers getting LEED certification, offering some below-market rate housing, and building particular kinds of public space – nevermind that an expanding dense housing supply is inherently good for the environment, housing affordability, and street life”

“The costs of building transit in Europe and the US differ by close to a full order of magnitude. A regional rail line, light rail line, and sometimes even subway could be built in most of Europe for around $5,000-10,000 per weekday boarding. In the US, increasingly $20,000 is the lower limit”

Calgary, whose LRT cost less than $3,000 per weekday boarding, manages to be both very conservative and very pro-rail, with aggressive TOD near stations, extensive downtown redevelopment without parking minimums, and imported German industry practices for keeping operating costs very low”

“Some light-rail systems are a huge waste of money. But highway spending is also often absurdly wasteful and transit-oriented development is not a prelude to communism. Adhering to rigidly ideological views on city planning issues is not only polarizing but ultimately harmful to the common good.”

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