March 27, 2005

‘Cities Get Stuck Paying Bills Run Up By People Who Live In The Exurbs’

As some people continue moving farther from urban centers looking for large lots and affordable McMansions, the cost per resident for providing things like public works, public safety and schools often climbs compared to older, more established communities, according to a CNN report. And more importantly for residents of inner-ring cities and towns, the exurbanites often still work and shop in other communities -- adding to traffic congestion and pollution problems.

"In effect, cities get stuck paying bills run up by people who live in the exurbs," the story notes.

"If growth was good for society, if it cut taxes, then Los Angeles would be the cheapest place to live in the world. It's not. It's among the most expensive," former Colorado Gov. Richard Lamm told CNN. "So I think that growth is subsidized by everyday taxpayers in a way that most of them don't fully realize."


That's us here in Framingham, Natick and further east.

Is the huge increase in rush-hour traffic clogging Framingham roads really due solely to growth in Framingham? Of course not. A huge chunk of that is because of booming growth along the Rte. 495 corridor and beyond. Those communities get the increased tax revenues, but don't provide a self-sustaining community where those new residents can work and shop as well as live. So, cities and towns closer in are increasingly burdened.

The implied social contract among regional communities -- some provided substantial jobs and shopping, some didn't -- worked reasonably well when our road network and other infrastructure could handle the load. But it's breaking down now that more of our roads are becoming unreasonably clogged. When I commuted from Framingham to Newton in the early '90s, I could pretty much reliably expect my trip to last 25 minutes at most if I left after 9 a.m., barring unusual circumstances (bad weather, an accident, etc.) Now, that trip can easily take 50% longer or more, well after 9 a.m.

Our transportation network based on private vehicles can't really take much more volume if we want to maintain our quality of life and not spend 3 hours a day in our cars. We've reached the point where the model doesn't scale up anymore. Something has to give, whether it's more public transit, or more jobs closer to where people are moving to live, or more telecommuters.

No comments:

Post a Comment