The reappearance of sprawl as a preoccupation is a sure sign that the post-9/11 world is over. Back in the late 1990s and into 2001 I was working intensively on this issue, writing a number of articles and book chapters including, for example, this one, which may have contributed to the sacking of a left-wing hack at the National Governors Association.
Back, in those days, I used to get called about once a week by a reporter, radio show, TV gabfest, or documentarian, for a sprawl-related project. That all ended abruptly on 9/11, as reporters and editors were quickly reassigned. I’ve had maybe two media calls about sprawl since 9/11.
A couple of points: First, don’t count of high gas prices curbing the urge to sprawl (that means YOU Deneen). European cities are actually sprawling faster than American cities, even with their $6 a gallon gas. My figures are a little old and need updating, but between 1970 and 1990:
Amsterdam expanded its developed area 12 percent while its population declined 12.4 percent;
Copenhagen expanded its developed area 10.3 percent while its population declined 14 percent;
Frankfurt expanded its developed area 33.3 percent while its population declined 5.4 percent;
Hamburg expanded its developed area 54.6 percent while its population declined 7.9 percent;
Paris expanded its developed area 54.3 percent (twice as much as Chicago) while its population rose only 15.3 percent; and
Vienna expanded its developed area 19.2 percent while its population declined 4.6 percent.
Second, while I am a big fan of the New Urbanism—and have done slide shows about Kentlands, one of Andres Duany’s best NE developments in Maryland—New Urbanist development does not save very much land. I can demonstrate this fairly easily, but not on a blog. By the way, anyone ever noticed where most of these heralded developments are located? Out on the suburban periphery.
Meanwhile, too many of the New Urbanists have become a bit thuggish about the whole matter, wanting to use the law to mandate the form exclusively. Even Duany has broken with most of these folks, and I know Philip Bess (a fine and thoughtful fellow of moderate disposition) has come to see this problem.
Lots more to say, but mainly—whoa there, folks.