One line in the story, though, really caught my eye.
"Most intellectuals say [suburbanization is] horrible. Most environmentalists say the same thing," says Nora Libertun de Duren, urban planning professor at Columbia University and an expert on suburbs in developing countries. "But developers say it's good business, and architects say it's good business."
And so we see a congenital weakness on the part of intellectuals: the need to look down on how other people choose to live (I am afraid I suffer this weakness myself from time-to-time, although my family does a good job of calling me on it when I display it). The fact is that many people enjoy the privacy, greenary, and sense of order that comes with suburban living, and there is nothing wrong with that. Moreover, as the Chinese have figured out, suburban planned communities often can self-finance infrastructure, and therefore provide a technique for community upgrading.
The environmental issue is more serious, but is solvable. If people were required to pay the social cost of driving, the settlement patterns that would emerge would be environmentally sustainable too. In many places, private automobiles would be very efficient forms of transport if (1) they got reasonable gas mileage and (2) if someone would sit in the front right seat everyday. The idea that light rail will solve environmental problems is just silly.