Zoned Out: Regulation, Markets, and Choices in Transportation and Metropolitan Land Use

Tuesday, May 1, 2007 - 3:00pm

About the Event

The debate about transportation and land-use planning in the United States has been distorted by a myth—the myth that urban sprawl is the result of a free market.

"The U.S. puts a lot of faith in the free market and the ability of consumers to choose,” says Jonathan Levine, “but when it comes to transit-friendly, walkable neighborhoods and other 'Smart Growth' solutions, current zoning regulations mean that Americans don't have many choices."

Levine, a University of Michigan professor, will explain why Smart Growth continues to elude American cities in a presentation May 1 at the CTS Spring Luncheon, held on the first day of the CTS 18th Annual Research Conference. His speech will present themes and findings from his 2005 book, Zoned Out: Regulation, Markets, and Choice in Transportation and Metropolitan Land Use.

Despite the fact that land use is intensely regulated by local government, Levine says, many observers—liberals and conservatives alike—seem to treat the status quo as the product of a more-or-less free market. The reality, however, is that design templates encouraging urban sprawl are written into land-use regulations in municipalities nationwide.

This myth of the free market is a major obstacle to change, Levine says. If the low-density, auto-oriented pattern that we have now is the product of “the market,” then policy reform in the direction of more compact development amounts in some eyes to “governmental intervention”—and draws opposition. But far from impeding market forces or limiting consumer choice, he argues, policy reform that removes regulatory obstacles would enhance both.

To order Zoned Out, visit the Web site of the Resources for the Future (RFF) Press.


Dr. Jonathan Levine Professor and Chair of Urban + Regional Planning, University of Michigan

Levine is the chair of the urban and regional planning program at the University of Michigan. His research focuses on the relationships between transportation systems and land use in metropolitan regions, factors that drive the development of such systems, and the efficiency of public transit. In addition to a Ph.D. in city and regional planning from the University of California Berkeley, Levine holds a master of city planning and a master of science in civil engineering, with a transportation focus.