December 26, 2012

We Like the ‘burbs: TOD Problems (Part 2 of 3)

If I could create something that would decrease poverty, raise incomes, provide more jobs, or lower gas prices, I would. But these are the types of problems that we cannot fix in the same way that we would fix a broken chair leg or leaky faucet. Russell Roberts, an economics professor at George Mason University, notes that “we want to change outcomes without consequences with the ease of adjusting the thermostat on the wall of our house.” He explains that the economy cannot be controlled in the same way. The economy is “the product of human action but not of human design,” he said.

New Transit-Oriented Development (TOD) in Saint Louis is a tool the government uses as an attempt to design where and how we live. They want to make more people ride the Metro, reduce car trips, and increase economic development in the area. There is nothing wrong with wanting economic development, but the government cannot see into the future. I used to work for the government, so trust me — they know just as much as you or I do. They cannot prove that Transit-Oriented Development will achieve their goals.

Just because the government creates shops and housing around a Metro station, it does not mean that more people will want to ride the Metro. Those who already used the Metro will continue to ride it, but those of us who prefer to drive our cars will continue to drive our cars.

Surveys suggest that four out of five Americans prefer a home with a yard as opposed to living near shops, transit, or jobs. It is a waste of resources to create TODs because they simply are not capable of achieving the intended goals. If the government really wants us to ride the Metro, they will have to do something more drastic, such as shutting down all the roads, or making it illegal to drive. But I think it is safe to say those things will not happen.

A project of the


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