Summary of this Issue

Many cities in the West and South are confronted with rapid growth and urbanization. Portland, Oregon, is responding to growth with an increasingly popular planning concept called the New Urbanism. Unfortunately, Portland's plans are likely to make growth problems worse, not better.

Portland's program consists of five basic parts:

  1. Metro, a regional planning agency that can dictate zoning and transportation planning to three counties and twenty-four cities;
  2. An urban-growth boundary that aims to minimize sprawl;
  3. A rail-transit system that may eventually include 90 to 150 miles of routes radiating in six or more spokes from the city center;
  4. A fifty-year plan that aims to absorb new residents with minimal expansion of the urban-growth boundary by encouraging, subsidizing, or even mandating increased housing densities, particularly along the light-rail corridors; and
  5. New-Urban design of new developments and redesign of existing neighborhoods to make them transit- and pedestrian friendly so residents will minimize auto use.
This growth-management strategy enjoys strong support among civic leaders, elected officials, and local opinion-makers. However, it suffers from major problems: Metro promises Portlanders that it will save their city from becoming another Los Angeles. Yet the agency's real goal is to make Portland as much like Los Angeles, with its heavily congested freeways, as possible. Amazingly, if all of these things happen Metro will count itself a great success. In fact, these are all Metro's optimistic predictions, and reality will probably be much worse.

Portland's planners have good intentions, but they are trying to impose a utopian vision on people who would rather find their own answers. The planners' application of nineteenth-century technology to a twenty-first-century city will only make the problems worse.

It doesn't have to be this way. Communities can manage their growth without huge subsidies to ineffective transit systems and without forcing neighborhoods to increase densities to levels many will find intolerable. The solution is to treat the problems, not the symptoms.

Summary of People 2000: An Alternative to Planning

We all want to reduce congestion and protect open space. Instead of a fifty-year plan that, because the future is unpredictable, is certain to be wrong and that uses coercion to treat symptoms rather than problems, Different Drummer proposes a growth-management program that relies on incentives.

We call this program People 2000 because, rather than having government plan people's lives for fifty years, we aim to give people the tools they need to solve their own immediate problems. These tools include:

People 2000 will allow Portland or any city to improve neighborhoods, reduce congestion, comply with air pollution requirements, finance needed transportation facilities, and protect the scenery and open spaces that people consider an essential part of life in the United States.
Electronic Drummer | Different Drummer | The Vanishing Automobile | Reports