The ease with which the auto's enemies' arguments can be dismissed does little to dispel their persuasiveness. For one thing, many of their points resonate strongly with Americans, particularly with concerns about loss of farms and open space and the ugliness of strip developments. The idea that we could ride fast, convenient trains instead of sitting in traffic is also appealing - although it turns out most people hope that everyone else will take the train so they can drive without congestion.
New Urbanism's political support, however, comes not from people accepting these myths but from very real interest groups that will benefit from increasing urban congestion:
• Central city officials eager to maintain the prominence of their cities over the suburbs;
• Downtown interests desiring to reverse the "declines" of downtowns relative to suburban "edge cities";
• New Urban planners interested in trying their theories out on various cities;
• Urban environmentalists opposed to more freeways and the automobile in general; and
• Engineering and construction firms looking for federal dollars to spend on urban public works projects.
These groups have combined to increase the federal government's role in urban transportation.
Randal O'Toole, "The Coming War on the Automobile," Liberty, vol. 11, no. 4 (March 1998): 30; digital edition here (courtesy of the Mises Institute).
[Photo: Cato Institute]