Thursday, January 8, 2009

Some books on transportation and urban policy

At various times I've linked to posts by Matthew Yglesias that address the issues of city planning and mass transit. Today, he happens to have up a post with a short list of basic texts on these issues. I have this pipe dream that in my copious spare time I will pick up a copy of The Option of Urbanism and read it so that, when I write stuff on this subject, I won't feel as though I've had to, ahem, raise myself from my chair so as to extract what I've written. We'll see. But the price is certainly right.

While I'm at it: If anyone visiting here is interested in serious discussions of this topic, I have a short list of websites over in the right gutter under the heading of "Urbanism and Urban Policy." I've not begun a concerted search for sites in this field; as I've run across them, though, I add them to the list. Consider this an invitation to you to let me know in comments if you can recommend link-worthy sites, too.

I believe I've made this point before--well, okay: Yglesias has made it; I've just repeated it here--but it bears repeating yet again: While it's true that urban planning is a field dominated by politically-moderate and -liberal types, there's no inherent reason why conservatives should feel excluded from or disinterested in discussions in that field. Livable, more efficient cities are healthier, more economically-vibrant--that is, desirable--places to live: something all citizens of a city should be willing to work toward.


The Jolly Crank said...

While I agree that there is no inherent reason for conservatives to be less engaged in the discussion about urban planning and transportation issues, I think the reality is that they are. In my experience it always seems to come down to the money. Changing or enhancing our urban infrastructure takes money. Some see it as an investment, others do not. There is also an interesting tension in many metro areas in mid-western states when it comes to allocation of state resources. The concerns of large population centers for a livable urban experience is not shared by constituents who live out-state and are usually more politically conservative; yet sometimes money for the city comes from the same state pot as money for rural transportation infrastructure.

John B. said...

Mr. Crank: Yes to all. I don't know how it'd go over, but I'd seek to appeal to conservatives on philosophical grounds: that more livable communities help to reinforce the traditional notion of community as a more-or-less unified polity in the face of a larger, more fragmented society.

In other words: (some) conservatives would argue that, in effect, we got into the cultural/social mess we're in part because of government attempts at social engineering. Why not invest in an attempt to try to right the ship (so to speak), at least a little? Maybe I'm just dumb, or I'm not quite clued in to just how deeply conservatives have bought into the Grover Norquist mindset; but it seems to me that it'd be hard for a genuine conservative (whether a traditional one or whatever passes for one these days) to argue against investments that would lead to a fostering of a sense of community that would also, in the long run, end up benefiting everyone economically.