University of Michigan Gateway Ford School

Profiles of University of Michigan Faculty Experts in State and Local Policy Areas

Professor Jonathan Levine

Professor and Chair, Urban and Regional Planning Program, Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning

Years On UM Faculty: 15

Faculty website
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When asked about interactions with the policy world, Professor Levine responds:

I am very eager to work more with policymakers interested in reform of land-use and transportation policy. Much of the bind that we find ourselves in currently--accelerating metropolitan sprawl and automobile dependence, fiscal disparities, and municipal exclusion combined with isolation of minority populations with poor transportation access--is the product of antiquated structures of governance that we inherited. But all of this is a choice; it's neither destiny nor a state of nature."

EXPERTISE

Transportation and land-use planning, public economics in urban planning, interactions between markets and planning.

CURRENT RESEARCH

"Zoned Out: Regulation, Markets, and Choices in Transportation and Metropolitan Land Use." October 2005. Washington, DC: Resources for the Future.

Zoned Out forcefully argues that the debate about transportation and land-use planning in the United States has been distorted by a myth-the myth that urban sprawl is the result of a free market. According to this myth, low-density, auto-dependent development dominates U.S. metropolitan areas simply because that is what Americans prefer. Jonathan Levine confronts the free market myth by pointing out that land development is already one of the most regulated sectors of the U.S. economy. Noting that local governments use their regulatory powers to lower densities, segregate different types of land uses, and mandate large roadways and parking lots, he argues that the design template for urban sprawl is written into the land-use regulations of thousands of municipalities nationwide. In debunking the market myth, Levine articulates an important paradigm shift. Where people believe that current land-use development is governed by a free market, any proposal for policy reform is seen as a market intervention and a limitation on consumer choice, and as such carries a high burden of scientific proof of its beneficial effects. Where choice expansion underpins policy reform, uncertainty ceases being a rationale for inaction.

OTHER RESEARCH AND PUBLIC POLICY INTERESTS

Public transit evaluation, accessibility in transportation policy.

NON-UM AFFILIATIONS/EXPERIENCE

Levine evaluates transportation policy in conjunction with organizations including the Ann Arbor Transportation Authority, Michigan Department of Transportation, Mineta Transportation Institute, and others.

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