Stephen Karlson (shkarlson) wrote in 50bookchallenge,
Stephen Karlson
shkarlson
50bookchallenge

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PURSUING THREE HARES, CATCHING NONE?

David Levinson (The Transportationist) was kind enough to send a copy of his book with Kevin J. Krizek, Planning for Place and Plexus: Metropolitan Land Use and Transport. Book Review No. 41 suggests that, in setting ambitious goals, the authors might have provided nearly enough information to enlighten each type of reader, without necessarily satisfying any one type. Their preface (turn to page xii) spells out their efforts.

We realized we were trying to satisfy three goals. We endeavored to write a text that would: (1) merge two sub-disciplines (land use and transport) in a straightforward and coherent, but also compelling manner; (2) be useful for graduate-level education in urban planning, civil engineering, geography, regional science, urban studies, and other allied disciplines; and (3) be interesting and engaging enough for other "professional" citizens, high-level policy advisors, or even politicians wanting to wade through. It became apparent to us that there is good reason why no single book stands out in terms of satisfying those demands. Were we aiming for the impossible?
Perhaps. Your reviewer has an undergraduate degree in transportation and public utilities, a doctoral dissertation with a strong regional economics focus, two old articles and a few book reviews in The Journal of Regional Science, and two large collections of National Geographic maps awaiting installation on the new computer. On the one hand, a book that blends the main ideas of central place theory, Thunen rings, and bid-rent curves with a look at precursors of Monopoly appeals (competition for the use of land dissipating the potential monopoly rents) appeals. On the other hand, the use of figures referred to as "diamonds" to help organize the reader's thinking seems contrived. Such diagrams are popular with middle managers and colleges of education: the conclusion is left to the reader as the exercise. In Place and Plexus, the Diamond of Action almost works, the Diamond of Design is almost too clever, and the Diamond of Evaluation was cut by Procrustes himself.

Plexus stands in for "the complex of networks that connect people and places." There are multiple such networks, and, in the manner of any complex adaptive system, each tends to do what it darn well pleases, which planners would be wise to heed. The book is aware of those tendencies, and it will reward careful study. David, thanks for letting me look at it.

(Cross-posted to Cold Spring Shops.)
Tags: academic, current events, economics
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