Low-density development away from city centers can be a drag on growth for several reasons…
For poorer people without access to a car, it can make it harder to physically get to a job. For those with a car, it can lead to longer commute times and more money spent on gas.
It’s also more expensive for taxpayers. Infrastructure costs can be 40% higher in low-density areas than higher ones…
America’s jobs are moving to the suburbs | 4/18/2013 CNNMoney
Oddly, other reports have looked at data and titled it with variations on “Recession slows job sprawl.” Yet trends still show that job sprawl will likely continue. Here’s a quote from an Atlanta Business Chronicle article today:
as the economy picks up speed, the outward shift of employment will also likely resume within most major metro areas…However, efforts to encourage denser forms of suburban development and to attract jobs to the urban core have accelerated in recent year…
The point: despite some gains in acceptance of smart growth ideas in recent years, there’s a lot of work to do to stop the sprawl madness and turn the ship around to development that’s in a less car-dependent, land-hogging format that allows for transit access to a greater percentage of jobs.
"Big roads and parking garages are so common in American cities that it’s easy to forget these places once functioned exceptionally well without them. However, in their persistent battle to satisfy the demands of motorists, many urban areas are losing out."
— Cars and Robust Cities are Fundamentally Incompatible | Atlantic Cities
Please take a few minutes to read today’s excellent post from Kaid Benfield: The disturbing and sometimes tragic challenge of walking in America
Among other things, he points out the often tragic results of putting cars far ahead of pedestrians in importance when it comes to land-use patterns and transportation infrastructure.
Here’s a quote:
“…from 2000 through 2009, more than 47,700 pedestrians were killed in the United States. This is the equivalent of a jumbo jet full of passengers crashing roughly every month. On top of that, more than 688,000 pedestrians were injured over the decade, a number equivalent to a pedestrian being struck by a car or truck every 7 minutes.”
He also mentions the problem of roads that are just plain inhospitable to pedestrians and how they prevent people from easily walking to nearby destinations when they should logically be able to. This is a problem I’ve encountered often in Atlanta.
For example: my family took a bus ride to the Beltline last Saturday for a walk. We had a great time both there and at the Old Fourth Ward Park. But getting on a bus back home involved making an overly long trek on Ponce de Leon Avenue in order to safely cross to the other side — and to avoid a stretch of road that lacked a continuous sidewalk.
But we were lucky compared to many pedestrians. At least we had a sidewalk and a crosswalk. The metro area is full of roads, including the one where my office is located, that lack even the most basic pedestrian amenities, even when they’re located near transit.
Crossing Ponce photo from Flickr user Eric Langley
"When you consider how much time we’re spending in our cars, it’s not surprising that Georgia ranks second in the nation when it comes to obesity - approximately 29 percent of our population, that’s one in five children and one in three adults, is considered obese."
— Atlanta’s need for walkability | Atlanta Business Chronicle, 12/12/12
A couple of news items from the Atlanta Business Chronicle show one reason there’s an uphill battle in my burg when it comes to making pedestrian mobility more attractive: driving a car in Atlanta comes with relatively low expenses.
When it’s easy to drive, you get more cars on the road. Which, among other things, wears down the infrastructure faster and creates pollution. And as an added bonus, it becomes more difficult to create a safe, pleasant atmosphere for pedestrians and cyclists.
A higher gas tax and a tax on parking spaces could help even the playing field and bring in added revenue.
Photo by Instagram user rwillis66