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Category — Smart Growth

Smart Growth: Lower Carbon Footprint Not

Recent reports from the Urban Land Institute and other planning advocates insist that so-called smart growth—a term meaning more compact urban development, combined with heavy investments in mass transit as an alternative to driving—is an essential tool in reducing greenhouse gas emissions. In heeding this call, the Obama administration and Democrats in Congress want to impose a national land-use planning policy that threatens the property rights of every landowner in the country.

Smart-growth advocates project that miles of driving over the next forty years will grow faster than improvements in fuel economy or development of alternative fuels, so it will be impossible to meet GHG reduction targets unless we coerce people out of their cars. Based on this, they argue that Americans must drive less to meet greenhouse gas reduction targets.

To reduce driving, or at least the growth in driving, smart growth calls for increasing urban population densities, mixing residential with retail and other uses so that everyone can be within walking distance of shops and jobs, and spending hundreds of billions of dollars on transit systems so people won’t have to drive. The reality is that urban planners began promoting these policies long before global warming was an issue, yet the evidence that compact development can significantly reduce energy consumption and air pollution remains as elusive as ever.

Despite this lack of evidence, the secretaries of Transportation and Housing & Urban Development have signed an agreement to require the nation’s 400 or so metropolitan areas to write plans aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions by becoming more compact and relying more on mass transit and less on auto driving. The administration calls this its “livability initiative,” even though it isn’t clear just how cities will be more livable if the people in them are less mobile.

These rules are to be implemented by metropolitan planning organizations (MPOs), a little-known level of government that was imposed by the feds back in the 1960s. [Read more →]

December 15, 2009   10 Comments