Friday, July 25, 2008
The mainstream news is filled with stories and anecdotes about how Americans, to pay for gas, are doing things such as giving up steak and trying to trade in their SUVs for Priuses. But the big land use policy question remains unclear: Are Americans willing to change their driving habits? If not, the much- ballyhooed arguments about the end of sprawl and revival of density are likely to be unfulfilled. Here are two anecdotes that I discovered while driving through moderate income neighborhoods in the all-American auto-loving city of St Petersburg, Fla, over the past couple of days: (1) people left their engine running while eating burritos in a drugstore parking lot, and (2) there was an extraordinary gridlock of vehicles (SUVs and pickups mostly) at the local gas station at 12:15 p.m. It appears that Americans in cities such as St. Pete (of which there are a lot more than cities such as New York or San Francisco) still often drive to lunch.
Here’s a real test of whether the new gasoline paradigm really will lead to changes in land use patterns: Will Americans give up driving to lunch?
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Tuesday, July 22, 2008
In the 1950s, economist Charles Tiebout argued that people can choose where to live based on government. Citizens can choose, for example, whether to live a town that is noted for good schools, on one hand, or low taxes, on the other hand. Evidence of a vigorous marketplace for communities is evident in how Americans are segregating themselves politically, according to a new book by Bill Bishop, called “The Big Sort.” Statistics show that, among other things, far more American counties today than in the past tend to vote overwhelming for one candidate or the other.
Suburbanization certainly exacerbates this trend: As the boss no longer lives in the same jurisdiction as the employee, each is less likely to encounter persons of differing political viewpoints in the community. Some argue that this political segregation is socially corrosive. How could land use law fight this trend? By allowing or encouraging more low-cost housing nearby high-cost residences, of course.
And I promise that this will be one of my last references to political campaigns as 2008 wears on …
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