The Guide to the American Dream


Why We Defend the American Dream




Land Use

Open Space


Smart-Growth Disasters


Public Health & Safety

Smart-Growth Disaster References


Portland's regional plan is the most comprehensive smart-growth plan ever implemented in a U.S. urban area. Debunking Portland (Cato Institute, 2007) is the latest report questioning the benefits of this plan. An equally critical article was written in 2002 by Ken Dueker of the Portland State University Center for Urban Studies.

The Costs of Smart Growth is a 14.2-mb PowerPoint show focusing on problems with that plan. (If you do not have PowerPoint on your computer, install Microsoft's free PowerPoint Viewer.) A fully-narrated, self-playing version of this PowerPoint show is available on the The Vanishing Automobile CD. This CD can be ordered from the Thoreau Institute for $15 plus about $1 for shipping.

For more information about Portland, including a detailed analysis with documentation of Oregon's land-use planning as well as case studies of other cities, see The Vanishing Automobile and Other Urban Myths.

San Jose

San Jose's plan is older than Portland's but was adopted on more of a piecemeal basis. San Jose's urban-growth boundary immediately led to major increases in land and housing prices, so that by 1980 housing costs were already twice the national average. These high prices led developers to naturally focus on higher density housing, thus reducing the need for the high-density zoning and subsidies used in Portland.

Do You Know the Way to L.A.? is a 2007 Cato report that scrutinizes this plan. It shows that San Jose's plan was a response to an obscure 1963 California state law that gives cities that power to control development outside their boundaries. It also shows that San Jose's transit agency managed to grab billions of dollars that voters had approved for roads so that it could spend those funds on rail transit instead.

The Costs of Smart Growth in San Jose is a 33-mb PowerPoint show that presents a detailed analysis of San Jose's plans. A fully-narrated, self-playing version of this PowerPoint show is available on the The Cost of Smart Growth in San Jose CD. This CD can be ordered from the Thoreau Institute for $10 plus about $1 for shipping.

The information in this guide and the PowerPoint show are based on a more detailed case-study of the San Jose urban-growth boundary and light-rail system that was published by the Reason Foundation.


The Denver Regional Council of Governments (DRCOG), Denver's regional planning agency, has written a plan that includes urban-growth boundaries, rail transit, and other smart-growth features. This plan is not as strict as Portland's but it is causing rising home prices and other problems. You can view a 43-mb PowerPoint show about this plan; as with the San Jose and first Portland show, it does not include any narration, so you have to read the text with each slide.


The Ohio-Kentucky-Indiana Council of Government's Regional Transportation Plan includes a financial chapter that shows how planners wanted to spend more than $2 billion on light-rail transit. The agency's environmental justice analysis that showed that its plan would reduce low-income and minority accessibility to the region's jobs without significantly increasing anyone else's accessibility. See in particular page 16-10 (pdf page 17) of the environmental justice analysis for the data shown on the Cincinnati disaster page.