Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Don't Call it Sprawl --- A Review of Tom Bogart's new book

Cambridge University Press has just published William T. Bogart's new book "Don't Call it Sprawl: Metropolitan Structure in the 21st Century". As a recent book author, and as a dude who is cited on 11 separate pages of the Bogart book, I feel that I am qualified to review this book.

This is not Tom's first book. A few years ago he wrote a quite funky urban economics textbook. Now Tom is back with a quite readable balanced book about sprawl. From first hand experience, I can tell you that it is hard work to solo author a book while being a professor. Right now, Tom is a Dean! I always wondered what Deans do all day long. I'd like to see more research output of the Tufts' deans!

Here is Tom's Table of Contents

1. The World of Today
2. Making Things Better: The Importance of Flexibility
3. Are We There Yet?
4. Trading Places
5. Downtown
6. How Zoning Matters
7. Love the density, hate the congestion
8. homogeneity and heterogeneity in local government
9. The world of tomorrow

Allow me to quote Tom, "Three themes distinguish the view of metropolitan areas that I advance from much of the popular and even academic work concerned with urban sprawl. The first theme is the interdependence among the parts of a metropolitan area. The second theme is that mass transit is a historical anomaly. The third theme is that lags in investment mean that the existing metropolitan structure will always be inefficient on the basis of the existing technology."

The book starts out by contrasting specific metro areas (Atlanta and Cleveland)

Chapter 2: offers some efficiency and equity criteria for judging whether a metro area is "making progress"

chapter 3: offers a quick tour of classic theories of urban economics for explaining the inner workings of a metro area

chapter 4: presents empirical work on employment specialization and commuting within a metropolitan area.

chapter 5: discusses how powerful a force is the downtown in the center city as a magnet attracting economic activity

chapter 6: the benefits and costs of zoning

chapter 7: consequences of sprawl

chapter 8: local governance

chapter 9: conclusion

Overall, I find this to be a balanced, smart book that should set off a debate among urban planners on the topic of the "benefits and costs of sprawl".

I think it nicely complements my green cities book. If I were an undergraduate teacher, I might consider using both paperbacks in a course on city growth.

1 comment :

bruce said...

This book is in the popular tradition of Future Shock, offers no notation, and relies on tangential observations, and anecdotal associations. Aside the vagaries of 'metropolitan interdependence' and 'technological change', the main thesis is that mass transit was an anomoly (p 3)in shaping our cities and that the automobile is the logical successor. This view implicitly suggests that walking provided little in the way of urban mobility during the hayday of mass transit! If then as now, the authors suggestion that 80% of contemporary automobile trips are not to work, then statistics tendered do not represent a complete picture. Walking, a component of which includes transit, has been extinguished as the organizing mode in our cities in favor of cars. The rest of the book is anecodatal future schlock.