Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Quick thoughts on UGBs

On the subject of urban growth boundaries (UGBs), there are many problems. Not simply with the subject of if they should be used at all, but with the fact that they apparently have limited effectiveness. As defined by the article Urban Growth Boundaries (http://www.greenbelt.org/downloads/about/ugb.pdf) they are “officially adopted and mapped line that separates an urban area from its surrounding greenbelt of open lands, including farms, watersheds and parks,” and their job is to preserve the open space surrounding an urban area.

Among the problems with UGBs is, apparently, whether or not they even work. Sprawl, the phenomenon that UGBs are meant to constrain, continues despite measures against it. An article from the Journal of Urban Economics (When are urban growth boundaries not second-best policies to congestion polls, by Alex Anas and Hyok-Joo Rhee, from volume 61) even states outright in its title that UGBs are considered inferior to tolls in most cases. There are other problems as well: the fact that policies like UGBs are born from government power rather than the interaction of the market means that there is little opportunity for experimentation. The options are to abide by the rule or be punished. This means that society loses some of its optimal good as well, because experimentation in the market shows whether or not people will use it.

In general terms, I think that there is a problem with the policy, in that it is and is not supportable. It is supportable because the environment that sustains everyone’s’ lives is worth protecting, but it is not supportable because the liberty that makes life worthwhile is impacted and reduced by these policies. But I really can’t be helpful; the best advice that I can give is to let time and innovation cure things in the future, and to find a way to charge those who use a resource at the cost of society to reimburse society.

No comments: