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Planning and Density: Who’s Forcing Them?

Today we're talking development and density. Greater Greater Washington has a post about zoning policies and traffic congestion in Montgomery County, Maryland, where a debate over growth policy that would encourage in-fill development near existing transit is getting heated.

David Alpert's post asks why planning for "low-traffic growth" is so often seen as coercive, whereas policies that encourage sprawl and car dependency are not:

18464893_57a2ebdbce.jpgPhoto by Dean Terry.
Somehow…the way elected officials, reporters, and others discuss development has become turned around. Instead of worrying about policies that force people to live far away, they worry that accommodating more people near their jobs will worsen congestion. And when anyone dares to suggest that that ought not be the overriding public policy consideration, they're accused of trying to "force people out of their cars."

If an airline sells more seats on a flight so you can't get an empty seat next to you, should we ban that because it'll "force people out of their extra elbow room"? When stores have special Thanksgiving sales that bring a lot of people to the store, do we decide to ban them because it would "force people out of the aisles"? Do we outlaw special events like inaugurations because the extra people drinking will "force people out of their bars?"

Where did we get the idea that people in a neighborhood have an inalienable right not to share their roads with anyone new, but new people don't have a right to live where they want to? Well, we got that idea because the existing residents vote and the new ones don't. But the whole idea is fallacious. The new residents are going to clog up the roads just the same. Instead of driving from a house near Rockville to a job in Bethesda, they'll drive from a house in Clarksburg to a job in Bethesda, which is worse. Plus, they really have no choice but to drive, unlike the person living in infill development.

Ryan Avent and Matthew Yglesias address similar issues as they're playing out in Tysons Corner, Virginia.

Better news from the D.C. area comes from The WashCycle, which has a sneak preview of the city's forthcoming Bikestation.