Chuck Marohn and strongtowns.org
Chuck Marohn is a civil engineer and urban planner from Minnesota. He writes and talks against suburban sprawl, but from an interesting perspective: he looks at the cost of investing in and maintaining that sprawl, and how unsustainable it is. His website is strongtowns.org, which focuses on educating people about creating strong (economically viable) towns rather than high-cost, low-return infrastructure based "growth". And he's pretty vocal about the problems that come from being a car-centric society. His TEDx talk is worth watching:
The key thing that I learned from strongtowns was to look at the long term consequences of a building project. Very few projects are "build it and forget it". Some stone bridges I suppose. On the contrary, almost every project has associated maintenance costs. And for large civil engineering projects, these can be unmanageable. In Michigan right now, where I live, the winter freeze is starting to fade, and as the roads thaw, the asphalt tends to crumble. So the roads are suddenly full of potholes. So now as a society we have to pay to patch thousands of miles of roads. Every year. We could save a lot of money if we had less roads!
Keeping maintenance costs in mind changes the math on whether certain development should be encouraged or discouraged. So, say a developer wants to buy a cornfield on the edge of town and build a new subdividision. When he goes before the city planning commission, he might tell them about the construction jobs that will be created, the increase in the tax base for the city, etc. He's not going to mention the additional wear and tear on the roads (and it's probably a long drive from a new subdivision to everything else, because all the cornfields close to prime destinations --work and shopping-- were developed years ago), the additional load on the city's sewer system, and such. It's up to the planning commission to be aware of the downside to
unchecked growth the cancer of suburbia.