Glenn Reynolds linked to year-old ode to suburbia and to a recent article in the Washington Post reporting five myths about suburbia. Both good reads that touch on points I made better long ago: mass transit projects are really just job programs for union workers that require massive subsidies to operate, mass transit is more vulnerable to terrorist attacks, and living in the suburbs is better for you.
A quote in Reynolds' piece gives a good perspective on what our elite are really thinking.
Sprawl isn't recent, says Bruegmann. Rich people have always wanted to sprawl:"Ancient, medieval, and early modern literature is filled with stories of the elegant life of a privileged aristocracy living for large parts of the year in villas and hunting lodges at the periphery of large cities. . . . High density, from the time of Babylon until recently, was the great urban evil, and many of the wealthiest or most powerful citizens found ways to escape it at least temporarily."
Sprawl didn't become a problem until the wealthy and powerful were joined by the hoi polloi. Thanks to greater wealth and improvements in transportation, they were able to move from teeming tenements to less-urban settings. Once this started to happen -- before the automobile hit the scene, and beginning outside the United States -- social critics began to complain that sprawl was ruining pristine landscapes, and destroying the charm of urban life. (Ironically, as Bruegmann also points out, some of the very aspects of sprawl criticized by earlier generations -- like the miles of brick terrace row houses built in South London during the 19th century -- are now regarded as quaintly charming: "Most urban change, no matter how wrenching for one generation, tends to be the accepted norm of the next and the cherished heritage of the one after that.")
I've noticed that satisfying most complaints by environmentalists and leftists would require preventing the poor from rising above their station and enjoying the lifestyle of the wealthy. Whether those poor are the unfortunate fellows who live near rain forests and must therefore preserve them for our aesthetic pleasure, or the poor trapped in inner city slums who long for a yard of their own, self-styled "progressives" demand that everyone else persist as they are to protect the delicate, mythical, "balance".