You may think moving six lanes of heavy highway traffic through an old, already congested and only newly revived neighborhoods is an awful idea. And you'd be right. And not only because those old, established neighborhoods would be torn apart. Just as city after American city from
But a little over a decade ago (2003), one study proposed not just six additional lanes of traffic through
What we have here may be one more example of how far removed city planners and traffic engineers are from the madding crowd, ensconced as they are in their nice, clean offices with maybe a fern or two on their desks and the usual certificates on the wall. As if all these real live human beings they were moving about were just stick figures in their drawings.
There may be only one word to say to technocrats like Mr. Bennett who keep coming up with these purely abstract schemes year after year, decade after decade:
It might help if our Great Planners reviewed the tragic history of some Great Plans That Failed -- even if those who dreamed them up had the best of intentions, and the best of reputations for designing and executing great plans.
What could be a more impressive accomplishment than conceiving and then carrying out the Normandy Invasion during the Second World War?
As a popular president and commander-in-chief after the war, he came up with a defense measure that would have sped military convoys across the country in no time without interfering with civilian highways. It sounded like a good idea -- a great idea -- at the time. Indeed, it was the beginning of this country's system of interstate highways, inspired by the German Autobahn, that would make America a leader in highway planning and the envy of the world. So was the plan. But then Ike made the mistake of going to see how his plan was working out on the ground.
It took the president only one look to realize his folly. Instead of connecting the country's great cities and speeding traffic through them, his plan divided those cities, and some haven't become whole yet. Because his Great Plan tore apart old established neighborhoods. Ike was appalled at the sight. As soon as his interstate surrounded a city like
Yes, it was as fashionable then as it is now for great cities to grow in all directions, and metropolises like
Perhaps it's just my own small-town background that prejudices me against Great Plans, or a naturally conservative streak that warns me it is better to love what you have and seek to improve it than turn our backs on it and aim to be a little
You can have that kind of "progress," which is little more than a kind of elephantiasis that swallows up everything in its path rather than carefully choosing what is worth saving and then conserving and enhancing it.
Plans are just fine, and ambition a noble quality, but beware: Great plans can prove great failures, even if some of our planners are oblivious to the great failures they are courting.