It's an interesting coincidence that Jarrett wrote a post debunking an article by Joel Kotkin just as I was preparing this one.
Over the past several years, Kotkin has released a flood of books, articles, editorials and blog posts hammering away at the same theme: most Americans want to live in big houses with lawns, and drive cars everywhere they go. He sees New Urbanists and transit advocates as enemies of this "American dream," bent on imposing our own visions of utopia in place of the will of the people. He is not alone in this; while he may be the most eloquent and respected apologist for sprawl, his arguments are echoed in editorials, blog posts and community board discussions across the country.
Some transit advocates have objected to Kotkin's portrayal of them, insisting that they are not anti-car, they just want choices. Others, seeing themselves as champions of social justice and the poor, react with bewilderment at Kotkin's accusations of elitism. But in a narrow sense he is right and they are wrong: it is impossible to be an effective transit advocate (or urbanist) without being anti-car, and this does put us in conflict with the ambitions of most Americans.
The flaw in Kotkin's argument is that it is impossible for any sane adult who understands the issues to not be in conflict with the American Dream. It's just not sustainable for everyone to live in a five-bedroom house on three acres and drive air-conditioned SUVs to office parks and big-box stores.
Yet somehow Kotkin seems to believe that in fifty years there will not only be enough suburbs for the entire current suburban population but also for most of the urban population as well, plus another hundred million. The only explanation I can give for this is wishful thinking. For his transportation analysis Kotkin relies on the work of Wendell Cox, an anti-transit, pro-sprawl crusader whose work has been pretty thoroughly debunked. Kotkin's assertions based on this have been refuted as well, by Yonah Freemark. Plus, of course, Jarrett's recent post that I linked to above.
I'll have another post soon explaining why I care about Kotkin, and why you should too.