As some people in Metro Vancouver continue to applaud funding gigantic bridges, and in some powerful quarters to lust after building tract-home subdivisions on the Agricultural Land Reserve, Smart Growth continues to attract other people.
Todd Litman has published a concise and detailed (how does he do that?) guide to countering criticism of Smart Growth by the proponents and defenders of 1950’s-style sprawl.
Smart Growth: refers to development principles and planning practices that create more efficient land use and transport patterns. It includes numerous strategies that result in more accessible land use patterns and multi-modal transport systems. It is an alternative to sprawl. Smart Growth is supported by diverse interest groups and professional organizations. Smart Growth has been criticized by various individuals and organizations. This paper evaluates that criticism.
Critics tend to assume that consumers prefer large single-family homes in automobile-dependent communities, and that current transport and land use policies are overall efficient and fair. As a result, they criticize Smart Growth as being harmful to consumers and the economy. This ignores evidence that many people will choose other housing and transport options if given suitable options and incentives, and that current markets are distorted in ways that increase sprawl and automobile dependency. Many Smart Growth strategies are market reforms that correct existing market distortions, increasing consumer options, economic efficiency and equity. Critics endorse some Smart Growth strategies in recognition that they increase market efficiency.
Critics often misrepresent Smart Growth and make various analytical errors which can lead to false conclusions. They often evaluate Smart Growth based simply on gross regional population density, ignoring other Smart Growth factors, geographic scales, and confounding factors. As a result, some evidence presented by critics misrepresents key issues. Specific Smart Growth criticisms are summarized below and evaluated in detail in the body of this report. . . .
. . . Critics tend to assume that consumers are inflexible, helpless and lazy, and so would be unable to accept living in more Smart Growth communities and reducing their automobile travel. However, experience indicates that people are actually quite adaptable and creative, enjoy walking and cycling, and can flourish in a wide range of land use conditions and transportation patterns.
Mr. Litman is a respected researcher and analyst who runs the Victoria Transport Policy Institute (Victoria, BC). He is unafraid to wade into the issues with critics, no matter who they are and at what level they discuss the issues.