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Reason Foundation

Beware Megapolitan Planning

Leonard Gilroy
July 10, 2005, 10:37am

From the USA Today comes an article highlighting a nascent push to refocus attention on a new super-regional geography -- the megapolis: Some of the megapolitan areas discussed include NYC-Boston-Philly-DC-Richmond; KC-OK City-Dallas-San Antonio; Houston-New Orleans-Mobile; and LA-San Diego-Las Vegas. The idea of emphasizing a new geographic level of analysis does seem to have some validity as it pertains to regional economic and demographic analysis. But the article does foreshadow a potential movement to keep an eye on -- a mutation of regionalism (i.e. regional land use planning and governance) into super-regionalism: Now in certain cases, such as super-regional coordination on electronic toll collection mentioned in the article, there could be some benefit to addressing issues on such a large scale. But does Amtrak really need a new unit of Census geography to make reasonable decisions on how to organize their service? Can't they look at the existing data to figure out what routes make sense and which don't? And similar to concerns about regional planning, efforts to promote coordinated land use, environmental, and transportation planning across multi-state/city areas should raise a serious red flag. Namely, if these efforts were to result in giving some degree of political power to a super-regional entity (i.e., beyond the county and state levels), such efforts would necessarily involve a loss of local control, reducing efficiency and representativeness of local government. Also, in areas like Portland, OR metro area where considerable power over planning and environmental policy has been granted to a regional authority, we see a pronounced rise in land and housing prices and a decrease in housing affordability. Of course, it's hard enough to form regional coalitions to address land use concerns and other issues, so it would presumably be even more difficult to form super-regional coalitions that cross state lines. Realistically, this would be an uphill battle. But I wouldn't doubt that smart growth advocates would still jump on any opportunity to pursue dramatic change on a large geographic scale.

Leonard Gilroy is Director of Government Reform


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