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Don't send your kids to UI-Chicago

Decatur, GA

Decatur, GA

...if the teaching is this bad.

See how easy it is to write a catchy, provocative headline?

Here's how you know you're becoming less of an outlet for journalism and more of a poor cousin of Buzzfeed: you have an article under the tab "What Works" titled "Sprawl is good for you: Why urban yuppies have it all wrong."

Since I've written about Robert Bruegmann's laughable attempt at scholarship before here, there's no need for a long debunk. But just for fun, I'll relate a couple of key points. Here are some of his arguments:

You would think from the commentary that Atlanta is flat on its back. In fact, of course, Atlanta, over the last half century, has obviously seen its population and its economy grow faster than most of the older, higher-density, more transit-oriented cities of the United States or Europe. It must be doing something right, perhaps including the way it has sprawled.

...

Let’s take, for example, the issue that dominates most discussions of Atlanta and sprawl: traffic congestion. You would assume, from the rhetoric of smart-growth advocates, that traffic congestion increases as urban areas spread out. In fact, in general, and around the world, the exact reverse is true.

Well, first off, Atlanta was a 2nd tier city in 1970, and those northeastern cities were already quite large. Atlanta (like all southern cities) exploded in growth because of air conditioning. Before that, large numbers of people just didn't want to deal with the warm southern climates. You may argue labor laws or lighter regulation, but without AC people still weren't going to move in big numbers. So, to say it has something to do with sprawl (which all cities experienced - including those big northeast cities) is truly bizarre.

More interesting is the argument that quality of life begins and ends with traffic congestion. The industry of sprawl apologists loves to focus on congestion, because it's both emotional and measurable. You can quote lots of numbers and convince people you're a pretty smart fellow. The thing is: traffic congestion is not something reduced to a single variable as the author describes. He repeats (to the amazement of anyone with eyes that can see otherwise) that the solution to traffic woes are more lanes, more cars and more sprawl. To come to that conclusion in 2014 is, well, it just leaves me dumbfounded. 

Fortunately, the people in Atlanta aren't listening to this "advice" and are doing some great work re-making their city in ways that people enjoy and importantly - save money. Like many Americans, they're well aware there's a lot more to life than being tied to a car and obsessing about traffic. 

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