As mid-sized cities grow, their land use and transportation plans should align with actual demand
NEW YORK, NY — In some American cities, the Covid-19 pandemic has accelerated already strong population growth. This growth has increased highway traffic as residents of these “boomtown” cities rely on cars almost exclusively. Since some of these cities are too low-density—and could possibly remain so for decades—to justify building large-scale mass transit options, they need alternative solutions. In a new Manhattan Institute report, fellow Connor Harris looks at five American “boomtown” cities (Dallas-Fort Worth, Austin, Atlanta, Denver, and Tampa), outlining the current state of development and travel patterns as well as existing transportation infrastructure. Harris offers a critical look at city plans for future renovation and expansion before pointing to alternate investments that could be done better. While his specific recommendations for each city vary, Harris offers a brief list of policy recommendations that state and federal policymakers can use to improve transit decisions and land use planning at the local level. His suggestions include:
Repealing restrictions on tolling existing roads.
Tying mass transit funding decisions to existing density.
Considering state zoning preemption laws near transit and large job clusters.
In short, all Harris’ foregoing considerations may be united into one overarching principle: land use and transportation planning work best when they are tied most closely to actual demand—and this means, above all, trusting market mechanisms.