By Dom Nozzi
On December 22, 2008, former Gainesville City Commissioner Ed Braddy attacked a guest column I had written about transportation and published by the Gainesville (FL) Sun.
Mr. Braddy’s views are so full of errors that I hardly know where to begin.
Mr. Braddy argues that had road widenings kept pace with population growth, we would not have congestion. This is ruinously uninformed. After endless and costly highway widening efforts for several decades, there is now a consensus that we cannot build (widen) our way out of congestion. We bankrupted ourselves by spending trillions of public dollars to build ever-wider highways. Yet we failed universally and catastrophically to eliminate congestion. It is silly and bankrupting to think that “keeping pace with population growth” by spending several trillion more highway widening dollars would have helped. Haven’t we learned by now that widening to eliminate congestion is equivalent to loosening your belt to eliminate obesity?
Mr. Braddy makes the naïve claim that instead of being subsidized, motorists pay for road construction and maintenance through gas taxes. All informed traffic engineers, governments and economists have pointed out that the gas tax pays only a small fraction of the cost to build and maintain roads. Most of that cost is subsidized through property taxes, income taxes, and sales taxes.
And what about this “American Dream” of “affordable housing in the safe, far-flung suburbs”? Studies now show us that a suburbanite is much more likely to be hurt or killed in a car crash than a downtown resident is to be hurt or killed by a mugger. By requiring long car drives for every trip made in suburbs, research finds that the suburbs are more dangerous than even the most crime-ridden downtowns.
And all the cars bought and gas burned while driving all those suburban miles means that there are rapidly growing suburban transportation costs.
So much for “affordable” or “safe” suburban housing.
In our economy, prices are an accurate barometer of winners and losers. Success and failure. Recent studies are finding that the far-flung, contemporary, car-dependent suburban home is the residence most significantly losing its value. By contrast, it is the walkable, traditional, in-town, smart growth home, rich in transportation choices, that is either retaining its value or seeing its value continue to increase. In the face of gas price volatility, environmental woes, high crash rates, and loss of a sense of community, the prices in our market are increasingly telling us that homes in the suburbs are increasingly losers and in-town, walkable homes are winners.
By the way, Mr. Braddy makes the laughable claim that transportation choice and smart growth have long been “the dominant paradigm.” Really? Last I checked, only cars are comfortable on 99 percent of our roads. And only “American Dream” suburbs are allowed or built in our cities.
Mr. Braddy disparages smart growth and transportation choices, which implies that he believes the U.S. should continue to inequitably and unsustainably grow beyond its means. The dinosaurs and the Roman Empire grew in such a way. And collapsed into extinction.
Indeed, Mr. Braddy’s “American Dream Coalition” is rapidly becoming the “American Nightmare Coalition.”
Visit my urban design website read more about what I have to say on those topics. You can also schedule me to give a speech in your community about transportation and congestion, land use development and sprawl, and improving quality of life.
Or email me at: dom[AT]walkablestreets.com
My book, The Car is the Enemy of the City (WalkableStreets, 2010), can be purchased here: http://www.lulu.com/product/paperback/the-car-is-the-enemy-of-the-city/10905607
My book, Road to Ruin, can be purchased here:
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