Winnipeg, MB. 16 April 2013 - Today the Frontier Centre released the backgrounder Toward More Prosperous Cities by Wendell Cox. Cox believes the objective of public policy should be to achieve wide-spread affluence and eradicate poverty. Cities, urban policy, and urban transport are means to facilitate this objective, not ends themselves.
By 2010 for the first time, the majority of the world’s population became urban. People abandon rural poverty for the hope of a better life in the city. People do not flock to cities “for the fountains” or for “good” urban planning, Cox says. Cities that do not facilitate the achievement of aspirations stagnate or shrink. The most successful cities have added population and naturally expanded their physical size.
Now, urban planning has raised the issue of urban spatial expansion, pejoratively calling it urban sprawl, and virtually defining it as an inherent evil. Densification policy is presented as the antidote. Densification policy attempts to establish urban growth boundaries and reduce personal vehicle use, substituting it with mass transit, walking and cycling.
However, there are substantial difficulties with densification policy, including the fact that higher densities mean greater traffic congestion, and greenhouse gas emissions are a function of fuel combustion, not the distance of travel. Also, densification policy is associated with higher house prices. Quite simply, when the supply of any good is artificially constrained– in this case land– then costs will rise excessively. Because housing is the largest element of household expenditure, it increases the cost of living, reduces affluence and increases poverty.
Research shows that economic growth is greater where more jobs can be reached in a particular period of time (such as 30 minutes). In reality mass transit cannot compete with automobiles for most trips in metropolitan areas. Centers of employment are decentralized, and transit cannot compete effectively because of time-consuming transfers and the longer walks required to reach destinations. Between 20 to 80 per cent of metropolitan GDPs would be required annually to pay for a mass transit system that would compete with the automobile throughout an entire large urban area.
Sustainability has more dimensions than environmental sustainability. It is immoral to expect people to live at poverty levels in order to achieve environmental goals, as poverty eradication is at the very heart of sustainability.
To download a copy of Toward More Prosperous Cities, please click here.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Wendell Cox is principal of Wendell Cox Consultancy, an international public policy, demographics and transport consulting firm. He has developed a leadership role in urban transport and land use and the firm maintains three internet websites: www.demographia.com, www.publicpurpose.com and www.rentalcartours.net. Mr. Cox has completed projects in Canada, the United States, Asia, Australia, New Zealand, Europe and Africa. He is author of War on the Dream: How Anti-Sprawl Policy Threatens the Quality of Life, and a co-author with Richard Vedder of The Wal-Mart Revolution: How Big-Box Stores Benefit Consumers, Workers, and the Economy. He was appointed to three terms on the Los Angeles County Transportation which oversaw high-ways and public transit in the largest county in the United States. He was also appointed to the Amtrak Reform Council. Mr. Cox is visiting professor at the Conservatoire National des Arts et Metiers (a national university) in Paris.
For more information and to arrange an interview with the author, media (only) may contact:
Marco Navarro-Genie, PhD
403 995 9916