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Settlement Patterns in the U.S. Canada:Simliarities and Differences - Policies or Preferences?

Peter Gordon, Bumsoo Lee
Smart Growth advocates in the U.S. and elsewhere worry about urban sprawl and typically advocate new controls on urban growth, including tougher land use planning and regulation. Yet, is auto-oriented development the market's way of meeting widely held lifestyle preferences? Or, is it (as some critics claim) attributable to policies that favor such development? For the case of the U.S., critics suggest that policies are the problem and Smart Growth is the solution. Yet, if U.S.-type development (suburbanization and widespread auto use) can be observed in non-U.S. policy settings, the critics may really be objecting to people's preferences. Comparing recent U.S. and Canadian settlement and travel trends suggests a test. Cultural differences are minor but urban policy differences are significant. How do settlement patterns and urban transportation choices compare? Our analysis of recent data shows substantial similarities. Preferences appear to trump policies. The Smart Growth platform may have to be reconsidered.