If you track the rhetoric of government haters at the John Locke Foundation, you know that one of the things they hate most is planning. Just ask their "expert" from Houses R Us, an objective group of homebuilders who think nothing should stand in the way of them throwing up more houses wherever they want. These folks are fundamentally opposed to smart growth because it costs more than stupid growth. Imagine that! Well, hold on to your hat, because stupid-growth advocates are also hot and bothered about transporation planning. Consider John Hood's silly column today.
Foolish or dishonest advocates of transit argue that there is a huge pent-up demand for bus or rail just waiting to be tapped if only those skinflint conservatives would get out of the way. More sensible advocates realize that building transit must be only part of a far-larger agenda of transforming the way most of us live, work, shop, and recreate.
What Hood doesn't understand - on purpose I assume - is that no "responsible advocate" has a far-larger agenda of transforming jack shit. "Responsible advocates" understand that the path we're on is leading over a cliff. From global warming to dependence of foreign oil to the massive loss of productivity resulting from poor transportation systems, the costs of our current development model are unsustainable. And we can't wait until the the problem is acutely destructive before we act.
The assumption that new employment, commercial, and entertainment centers must be located in downtowns, served by fixed rail, is fundamentally wrongheaded. If used as a basis for public policy, it will have deleterious consequences with regard to economic prosperity, individual freedom, traffic congestion, affordable housing, and other concerns.
I don't know of many serious planners who even remotely accept the assumption Hood is talking about here. It's nothing but a red-herring to cover a point-of-view about planning that's fatally flawed. The only point with a shred of validity is the affordability issue - and that's one policy makers need to take seriously.
Planning requires thinking ahead, and the smart approach says start now to create options that allow sufficient flexibility to respond to likely scenarios in the future. That's a critical dimension of planning, the John Hoods of the world just don't get it. They say they want to run government like a business, but they bristle at making investments in the future that any decent business would make. I call that the not-planning penalty.