Monday 25 May 2009

A question for urban planners

A long time ago, in a job far far away, I worked with urban planners. I worked with them for some years. One thing I learned is that they absolutely and completely and totally detest the outer suburbs, and everyone living in them. Everything more than 15km from the CBD is a leper colony as far as they are concerned.

During my time interacting with them, they tried to cook up all sorts of wheezes, ruses and stratagems to keep people away from what they wanted - ie, a free standing house of good size on a quarter acre block. The planners managed to lock up plenty of land on the urban fringe, and they invented all sorts of taxes and levies that buyers of fresh blocks had to pay in order to provide "infrastructure".

One of the stated reasons for their disdain, hatred and disgust was the infernal combustion engine. The planners hate the air pollution that it creates, the time people "lose" sitting in traffic congestion and of course oil consumption. All that is bad. Bad, bad, bad. You are so naughty if you prefer not to live in a rabbit hutch, jammed cheek by jowl with your loud, stinky neighbours.

So I have this question for the black-clad urban planning brigades:

Let's say that solar power becomes wonderously cheap and electric cars become workable and affordable. Both technologies become so cheap, people choose of their own accord to move away from the infernal consumption engine towards small, non-polluting, quiet electric cars. We also prefer to buy "smart" cars that can self drive a foot behind the car in front, allowing much higher traffic densities, thus eliminating a lot of congestion. In essence, we would travel in "trains" consisting of our own personal transport, where we wouldn't have to interact with the Great Unwashed.

Doing so eliminates all the problems that planners hate about sprawl. It even introduces a word they love - "train". If we reach that point, will they still vociferously object to McMansions and large blocks on the urban fringe, because they have been trained to do so reflexively; or will they accept the stated preferences of the market, and shut the fuck up?


TimT said...

I expect they'd find a whole bunch of reasons to start objecting to solar power. "The sun? What good's it done for us lately, anyway. I'll tell you what - it causes CANCER, that's what. The sun KILLS people. And worse! It causes global warming! A recent study performed by Professor Blatherskite of the Blathersby University indicates that the sun is, statistically, one of the most likely causes of global warming! And here we are ENCOURAGING it! We need to institute taxes on solar power. Yes, and it's definitely time to institute a solar-power trading scheme, so we can start cutting back on these dangerous incidences of solar radiation. Why is the government not acting on my paranoid fears immediately? Bla bla bla, etc, etc, etc."

daddy dave said...

enlightening and sobering, BOAB. That's the rot at the center of the planning bureaucracies (for they are legion) in NSW.

Hatred and contempt of the burbs.

In fact, this visceral attitude drives a lot of cultural and social phenomena in Australia. I think it is one of the fundamental prejudices at the heart of urban leftism, and many of their policies are designed to minimise the burbs and punish or marginalise those from there, and those who wish to see them prosper.

The amount of postcode bigotry in Sydney leaves me stunned. (I've returned after a long absense). People in the inner city say the most ignorant, offensive things on a regular basis... I don't know what can be done about it.

It all seems so deeply ingrained.