Years ago I noticed that the people who champion high density development as being a solution to traffic, job creation or pollution invariably have no empirical evidence to support their claims. New urbanism is not a science it is a religion because it relies on blind faith from those that believe in it. I mention this because a new post over on newgeography.com discusses this extraordinary phenomenom.
The piece is titled Planning Decisions Must be Based on Facts and you should read the whole thing here. Below is the part I found most fascinating:
We are told that high-density imposed on areas originally designed for low density is good for the environment; that it provides greater housing choice, that it reduces housing cost, that it encourages people on to public transport; that it leads to a reduction in motor vehicle use and that it saves on infrastructure costs for government. Not only do none of these claims stand up to scrutiny in any significant way, the contrary mostly prevails.
Movements advocating high-density show characteristics of an ideology, their members’ enthusiasm resulting in a less than objective approach. The desire by these individuals to be socially and environmentally responsible and to identify with a group marketing these imagined benefits is understandable. Some may even benefit professionally. However the result is policies for which no objective favorable justification can be provided and which are not wanted by the greater community who have to live with the consequences.
A while back a transit supporter became beligerent when I suggested MARTA trains were a horribly expensive and inefficient way of trying to solve Atlanta’s transportation issues. In trying to prove me wrong the transit believer cited a 100 or so page paper to support his claim that MARTA would help create jobs.
Much to his dismay I actually read the report and found this line clearly written among the pages otherwise filled with transit supporting propaganda: “Certainly the study results do not indicate a causal relationship between increased access to public transit and increased labor participation.”
So the report that was being used to justify MARTA expansion clearly stated that there was no evidence it would actually help create jobs. Did the transit supporter realize his mistake and change his opinion? Of course not. He got even angrier at me for pointing out the truth.
Facts are stubborn things while faith is the belief in something despite a lack of evidence. I find that when people start using terms like “smart growth” and “sustainability” it is because they generally have no facts to support their faith.