Tag Archives: community development

Population Growth, Density, and Cars


By Dom Nozzi

January 3, 2016

I have a friend who fears a huge growth in population in our area due to how attractive our area is considered, and is worried that it will result in intolerable density.

I informed her, to the contrary, that for the past 80 years, America has seen population growth WITHOUT higher density. There is absolutely no certainty that more people in the area will mean more density. If the NIMBYs remain powerful in the region (extremely likely), we will instead see more low-density, car-dependent sprawl.

In addition to a lot more cars on the road.

We will see a lot more cars on the road than would be the case if the NIMBYs did not block cities like ours from having the projected growth in our area live in more compact settings. The NIMBYs fighting for low density, in other words, are responsible for giving our area a traffic jam on huge hwyLOT more cars. What an irony, since NIMBYs HATE more crowded roads and parking lots.

Yes, there is a trend over the past several years of people (especially young people) to want to move into town centers and not want to live in sprawl. A huge problem in our community, I informed her, is that the NIMBYs loving low density will continue to violently fight to stop ANY development in the town center because they HATE more compact development.

So while much of the remainder of the nation will see a growth in town center housing, the NIMBYs in our community — who love low density — will do whatever they can to stop pretty much all of that healthy trend.

Ironically, the NIMBYs will fight new housing to keep roads and parking from getting more crowded. The result of their efforts will, however, be MORE cars than would have been the case had they not fought against new housing.

Be careful what you fight for, I told her. You might get it.


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Filed under Transportation

Timing is Everything

By Dom Nozzi

I read a book in the 1990s called Re-Doing America. I was a bit depressed about the fact that the book described planning strategies that are still needed today – yet the book was written 30 years ago.

Given how little we’ve done to achieve such measures for so long, it would be easy for people to read that stuff and just give up, I guess.

However, I believe it is important to keep in mind that, as some of us know, the underlying conditions (political, environmental, technological, economic, etc.) are much more critical and influential than ideas. Lack of good ideas is not our problem (usually). We have plenty of good ideas to save ourselves.

But we need to be patient with our ideas and wait for the conditions to be ripe. A couple of examples: Galileo invented the good idea of helicopters, but the idea was not implemented until the underlying conditions were ripe. Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony came up with great ideas about equal rights for women at the turn of the century, but the conditions did not become until the 1960s.

We have plenty of good ideas about sprawl and compact cities and transportation and land use, but many will not be implemented until the conditions for them are ripe. It is our role, in both the public and private sector, to modify underlying conditions so that we accelerate the ripening process. That is largely why I’ve always championed things like user fees, congestion fees, and model traditional developments.

By deciding, democratically, to do these incremental things, we can change underlying conditions that allow people to more easily see the need for positive change. Another way of putting it is that an important role for us in the public sector is to, as economists would put it, internalize externalities. After all, the better we do that, the better capitalism works the way Adam Smith thought it would work.

According to Smith, we need all the relevant information before we are able to make rational decisions in the marketplace.

Also, I’ve always lived by the rule that I am a pessimist of the intellect, but an optimist of the will. It seems hopeless, but giving up is not an option. Persistence pays off. Overall, I’m hopeful because I think we are on the verge of turning things around in our society to the point where positive changes are self-driven. A consensus is emerging…

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Filed under Economics, Politics