Three years ago, the Antiplanner reviewed the regional transportation plans for the nation’s 70 largest metropolitan areas and found that 40 of them had some form of “smart-growth,” anti-auto policies built in. One that did not was for Omaha.
Omaha planners are eager to rectify that situation. Perhaps in response to Ray LaHood’s direction that all metro areas incorporate “livability” into their next round of long-range plans (which are revised every five years), Omaha’s new plan, which is now being prepared, has an unhealthy dose of this inane idea.
So far, the planners are merely at the PowerPoint stage. The most offensive part of their presentation is page two of this show, which says they want to “manage congestion.”
How will they manage it? First, they will increase the amount of time people waste in traffic in the hope that a few people will find alternative modes of transportation. Second, they will increase the cost of sitting in traffic in the hope that people will drive less and own fewer cars. Isn’t it wonderful to know that government officials care about us so much that they will waste our time and money not simply out of carelessness but as an intentional policy?
Another PowerPoint show focuses on the idea that “design matters.” It has all the usual New Urbanist prescriptions: stores fronting on sidewalks instead of parking lots; wide sidewalks; dense development; quotes from Richard Florida.
News flash to Omaha planners: Design doesn’t matter, at least not much. You can change the design all you want but it will have little effect on people’s travel habits; instead, it will just piss them off. They won’t respond by complaining about stupid plans. They will simply leave, just as people today are leaving California.
A third PowerPoint show has the usual pseudo-science about induced traffic (no such thing), suburbs making people fat (numerous studies show this isn’t true), and peak oil leading people to drive less in the future (we have both plenty of oil and plenty of alternative sources of energy). These things are simply fantasies. How did people who are so out of touch with reality manage to get control of the future of our cities?
Omaha residents still have a chance to fight this plan. If you don’t live in Omaha, better check with your nearest metropolitan planning organization to see what kind of unlivable plans they are cooking up for you.