Smart Growth: Delusion, Not Vision
Wendell Cox Closing Statement in
"Railvolution" Debate

On December 1, 2001, Congressman Earl Blumenauer (D-Oregon) and Wendell Cox participated in a debate on the following proposition at the annual "Railvolution" conference at the Hyatt Regency Hotel Embarcadero in San Francisco.
    In the 21st century, America's metropolitan areas can accommodate projected population increases and improve quality of life only by practicing growth management and providing alternatives to automobile-only development that include rail and other transit.

The closing statement of Wendell Cox is reproduced below.

Letís talk for a few moments about Portland --- that leader in smart growth. First of all, Portland sprawls more than Los Angeles. Itís urban area is barely one-half as dense as Los Angeles, and will still be less dense in 2040, according to Metro. Portland seems to be striving to become Los Angeles.


Already Portlandís lack of investment in highways is showing. The Texas Transportation Institute indicates that Portlandís Travel Time Index is worse than that of Atlanta, which is renown for its traffic congestion. And things are not going to get better. According to Metroís own projections:


  • Traffic will be 40 percent more intense in Portlandís more dense environment in 2040 than it would have been if the urban area had been allowed to continue to expand.


  • And transit will make little difference. Transitís market share will rise from three percent now to six percent in 2040.


  • By 2020, per capita traffic delays will increase 350 percent.


  • And despite huge increases in transit service by 2020, there will be a five percentage point drop in homes within walking distance of transit and a two percent decline in jobs within walking distance of by transit.


This, Portland, is what you call a livable city?


Consider the case of another sprawling city.

  • The central city, like so many others, has lost 25 percent of its population since 1950.


  • Like Portland most of its jobs are not in the core. Only 17 percent of employment is in the central business district, while 83 percent is outside.

  • The urban area is sprawling. Since 1970, the population has increased 15 percent, but the land area has increased 55 percent.

  • Now, 80 percent of residents live in the suburbs. And you canít get from here to there on auto-competitive transit in the suburbs. While there is good transit service in the central city, and good service from the suburbs to the central city, virtually all travel in and between the suburbs is by car (except among those who have no cars).

  • Fortunately for our sprawling city, it has the best freeway system on the continent.

I am not talking about Los Angeles, Atlanta, Phoenix or St. Louis. I am talking about Paris.


Paris --- the western worldís ultimate city --- with a population density of more than 60,000 per square mile in the central city. Yet, despite an overall urban area density three times that of Portland, the automobile is dominant, except in the four percent of land represented by the ville de Paris.


My point?


That transit serves only niche markets and that cities are sprawling everywhere.


Portland will never be as dense as Paris, and even if it were, the automobile would still be dominant.


Smart growth is about incoherence.


Smart growth is not a vision.


Rather, smart growth is a delusion.


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