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Saw this on Instapundit. The federal government wants to investigate urban sprawl and its impact on the transport system. Which provokes a bit of comments that angrily opposes any move to restrict the “freedom” of people to live in suburban communities.

Except in status quo, in most states, the true cost of living in suburban communities isn’t accrued to those who take this choice. Take the networks of highways serving these communities – most of them are funded by a large amount of federal and state tax funds. Even tollways rarely have their full cost recovered from the tolls. This of course, doesn’t include the externalities: congestion and pollution, especially if the sprawl is replacing forests and shrublands.

Other factors come to play too – broken public schools in city centres, for example. New urbanism need not be about blocking people’s freedom. If you remove all subsidies for highways (i.e. they are all tolled, or all city drivers have to pay for a car tax), throw in congestion charging and a higher gas tax to charge for the externalities caused, remove zoning, density, and other regulation – and higher density, smaller cities will be the result.

New urbanism should be about achieving this by removing real and effective subsidies suburban dwellers receive, and then making life easier for those who move back to densely-populated cities. New urbanism has a lot of good ideas on land use – mixed-use development, better street design, better mass transit design and access, etc. Just that, maybe the best way to achieve it isn’t to add more regulation and restrictions, but removing regulation, restrictions (current zoning and density requirements) and subsidies.

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