The fact that a state legislature would decree population density mandates to cities in the state is an intolerable tyranny. Naturally, the California legislature is doing it.
But it has officially decided to worry about the environment of a fantasy world, not the real one.
California’s S.B. 375 mandates that cities increase the population densities of targeted neighborhoods because everyone knows that people drive less in higher densities and transit-oriented developments relieve congestion. One problem, however, is that transportation models reveal that increased densities actually increase congestion, as measured by “level of service,” which measures traffic as a percent of a roadway’s capacity and which in turn can be used to estimate the hours of delay people suffer.
The California legislature has come up with a solution: S.B. 743, which exempts cities from having to calculate and disclose levels of service in their environmental impact reports for densification projects. Instead, the law requires planners to come up with alternative measures of the impacts of densification.
In other words, if their mandate actually causes more congestion, then they don’t want to hear about it. Denial is now official state policy as a strategy for claiming they are protecting the environment.
This is the truth behind Obamacare and every other government boondoggle. Politicians claim that government can solve our problems and correct all the inefficiencies by it vast resources and competence. Then it devotes most of its resources and competence for the purpose of hiding the results, which show it to be a complete failure at keeping its promise.
In the case of California, the Governor’s Office of Planning and Research has released a “preliminary evaluation” of methods to analyze the effects of densification on transportation. All the accurate ones, it complains, are “expensive and difficult.” How can they have it both ways? If the state has the right and the competence to plan all cities, then it has the competence to do so in a knowledgeable way rather than be blind to reality.
The report goes on to suggest some problematic ways of analyzing transportation and then:
Worst of all, the final “measure” proposed by state planners is to simply presume, without making any estimates, that there is no significant transportation impact from densification. After all, if you add one vehicle to a congested highway and traffic bogs down, can you blame that one vehicle, or is everyone else equally to blame? If the latter, then it seems ridiculous, at least to the planners, to blame densification for increased congestion when the existing residents contribute to the congestion as well.
So the state wants to intervene in the way people live and force them to do things they would not otherwise do. It justifies this intervention on the grounds that they need to decrease traffic congestion. But then it doesn’t want to bother to measure if its actions actually decrease traffic congestion.
These people don’t care about anything but the exercise of their own power over others. Just wait. Soon they will be bragging about how California has less traffic congestion because of mandated “densification.” And how will they know that they have less congestion?
Because their mandates were carried out, of course. No need to confirm the results.