Wednesday, August 18, 2010

The Cost of Driving, The Cost of Roads...

Before I started focusing on land use issues, I never fully appreciated how much local land use planning is driven by federal and state road-building policy.  I suspect this is also the case for much of the general public. 

At first glance, roads and buildings seem to be distinct topics.  Unfortunately, that's the way we've treated them for much of the post WWII development cycle--despite the fact that they are inextricably linked.

Case in point: a poorly designed road can completely undermine the usefulness of a well-designed building just as a well-designed road can suffer if poorly designed, misplaced buildings line the frontage of the road.  A textbook example of this would be the problems that would result if you placed a nice, well-proportioned 2,000 Craftsman cottage...along a six lane, high-speed arterial. 

Clearly, this would be out of context and, in the big picture, so much of the success in land use is about syncing up the right overall context between streets, blocks, and buildings.

Related to this topic, is a recent article at Planetizen by Samuel Staley that does an interesting job explaining how the economic angle of road building:

In a previous blog post, my discussion of externalities, public goods and roads spurred an unexpectedly lengthy set of posts and repostes. In this article, I want to address a trickier topic: Whether road users have effectively shifted the burden for paying for roads to non-users and whether the reason we pay for roads out of general taxes is a result of that lobbying effort.

Read the entire post if you get the chance. It really presents a thought-provoking argument about how everyone--including those who don't drive very often--pay for the cost of our expansive and complex national driving system.

--Chad Emerson, Faulkner U.

http://lawprofessors.typepad.com/land_use/2010/08/the-cost-of-driving-the-cost-of-roads.html

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Comments

For Virginia the reverse is true as well - road building and maintenance policy (or perhaps more accurately disappearing funding) has been driven by local land use. The state would contend that localities have spawned public roads with ongoing funding requirements for maintenance without proper top level organization.

The flip side is that the state's funding for transporation is, shall we say, less than stellar. Definitely intergrally connected though.

Posted by: Timothy R. Hughes | Aug 19, 2010 5:31:08 PM

For Virginia the reverse is true as well - road building and maintenance policy (or perhaps more accurately disappearing funding) has been driven by local land use. The state would contend that localities have spawned public roads with ongoing funding requirements for maintenance without proper top level organization.

The flip side is that the state's funding for transporation is, shall we say, less than stellar. Definitely intergrally connected though.

Posted by: Timothy R. Hughes | Aug 19, 2010 5:31:08 PM

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