In the decades after World War II, urban planners across the country pursued a variety of aggressive “get people into their cars” policies. They used the power of eminent domain to push freeways through the heart of urban areas, destroying some neighborhoods outright and cutting others off from the rest of the city. They passed zoning restrictions that systematically discouraged high-density urban living. Many of these laws are still on the books to this day. In addition to restricting building heights and mixed-use development, these zoning codes almost invariably force developers to provide parking for new construction projects, whether the market demands it or not.
The results of these policies—convenient automobile access to the heart of the city, plentiful parking, inflated rents in the city compared to the suburbs, spread-out neighborhoods that are hard to traverse on foot—creates the illusion that people are freely choosing a suburban, auto-oriented lifestyle. But this is like saying the market has freely chosen to sweeten products using high fructose corn syrup while ignoring corn subsidies and sugar tariffs.
excerpted from Libertarians and the Urban Planning Culture War from Forbes