On the Strong Town’s blog, they discuss how our current experiment with auto-centric development of cities and suburban areas is one we can’t afford to do anymore.
This, of course, changed with the advent of the automobile, a technology that became ubiquitous in America following World War II. Over the past two generations, we have reshaped an entire continent to accommodate this new technology, from interstates to connect our cities to the streets within them. We developed new building types, new ways of arranging things on the landscape and new standards for building and financing this new way of building, all from scratch, all within a very short period of time.
We’ve become slaves to this metal creature living in our driveways. Cars don’t set you free, they chain you down. You don’t walk as much, don’t mingle with people on the street as often, and it cocoons you from the outside world to the point were we have to make laws to remind you that there are other people outside your car.
Our auto-oriented development experiment, now in its third generation, has allowed the United States to experience decades of robust growth. Despite this success, our cities and states – big and small, led by liberals and conservatives alike – are now struggling to find the money to do basic functions. Simple things like maintain sidewalks, fix potholes and keep public safety departments adequately staffed. How can this be?
The answer is that, in this new and enticing model, we’ve sacrificed resiliency for growth. In the pursuit of jobs and economic development, American cities have spread themselves out beyond their abilities to financially sustain themselves. All those roads, all that sidewalk, all those pipes….they are really, really expensive. We’re starting to understand that building it all was the easy part. Maintaining it generation after generation is hard.
And now, as budgets everywhere are frayed, our leadership obsessively seeks – in true Ponzi scheme fashion – more and more growth using this same, experimental model.