Tuesday, August 02, 2005

More on Transportation and Urban Form

It's been a while since I've blogged -- just getting too busy, I guess. The Western Planner conference is coming up, and I had to get two presentations ready, which took up all my free time when I usually blog...

Alex Marshall has a couple of interesting essays on his website relating to sprawl, urban form and transportation. He says some interesting things.

He says, "Allow me to say something provocative, which is: It is conceptually very easy to control or even stop sprawl. Simply stop building or widening roads on the periphery of metropolitan areas. Even without throwing in a moratorium on extending water and sewer connections, low-density development would dry up in a decade or so without the benefit of new freeway off-ramps, or new suburban boulevards cutting through virgin farmland..."

Well, sure, if you don't build the new roads so people can get out there, there won't be any "sprawl." But the rail and transit systems that gave rise to dense cities were built in a time when most people did not have cars because they were too expensive. The general population is now wealthy enough, and the cost of cars has come down enough, that cars are ubiquitous, everyone had one, eveyone wants one, and they want roads to drive them on. Can we realistically go back to funding transit primarily and not roads?

More likely we will wind up funding roads and transit. What kind of urban form will that give us?

Marshall goes on, "Transportation decisions are the important ones. Growth boundaries are great tools, but in the long run they are just as important in saying where transportation dollars will be spent, as where private development can occur. I've sometimes wondererd if all the fights over zoning are an elaborate ruse to cover up the real decisions being made by the various state departments of transportation. They are the real designers of cities today."

Interesting stuff.


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