Urbanism: Not Just for Lefties

The American Prospect reports on a bi-partisan panel at the University of Minnesota last week where some dyed-in-the-wool Republicans declared their affinity for urbanism and opposition to sprawl:

Policies in favor of dense development shouldn’t be viewed on a left-right spectrum and certainly needn’t be filtered through culture-war rhetoric, the panelists said. In fact, one doesn’t have to be concerned about climate change at all in order to support such policies; values of fiscal conservatism and localism, both key to Republican ideology, can be better realized through population-dense development than through sprawl.

Tom Darden, a developer of urban and close-in suburban properties, said Wednesday, "I’m a Republican and have been my whole life. I consider myself a very conservative person. But it never made sense to me why we would tax ordinary people in order to subsidize this form of development, sprawl." Darden told the story of a road-paving project approved by North Carolina when he served on the state’s transportation board. A dirt road that handled just five trips per day was paved at taxpayer expense, with money that could have gone toward mass transit benefiting millions of people.

"Those were driveways, in my view, not roads," Darden said.

Now that U.S. taxpayers will probably have to bail out the Highway Trust Fund to the tune of $8 billion, how much longer can the free-spending road-building industry masquerade as an enabler of personal freedom?

Personal sidenote: Stories like this remind me of my high school calculus teacher, Mr. Hall, who was conservative through and through, and didn’t shy away from sharing his views in class. When he was a kid, his family’s farm ceased to be viable when it got split down the middle to make way for I-91. Much of his distaste for government seemed to spring from this fact. Not that eminent domain doesn’t have its uses, but here was a guy whose conservatism was rooted in opposition to highway building.

ALSO ON STREETSBLOG

STREETSBLOG USA

Is “Sprawl Repair” Worth It?

|
Transforming the territory of strip malls and big boxes into walkable places is a hot topic, exemplified by the popular book “Retrofitting Suburbia.” But is it worth the time, money, and effort? Robert Steuteville of Better! Cities & Towns writes that architect Kevin Klinkenberg and development expert Lee Sobel raised the question at this year’s Congress for the […]
STREETSBLOG USA

New Evidence Links Sprawl to Parking Minimums

|
New evidence connecting minimum parking requirements and sprawl is bolstering the argument for an overhaul of government policies related to much space we devote to the storage of cars. A team of economists from the University of Munich recently released a study examining the effects of mandatory parking minimums on development in urban and suburban […]

A Message from Copenhagen: Climate Plan Must Include Walkable Urbanism

|
The energy-saving benefits of transit aren’t limited to the transportation sector. Image: Jonathan Rose Companies via Richard Layman. At a panel discussion yesterday at the Copenhagen climate summit, American policymakers and transit experts delivered a clear message: Walkable urban development must be part of any effective plan to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions. Thanks to […]
STREETSBLOG USA

William Fulton on Why Smart Growth Pays and Sprawl Decays

|
Earlier this week, Smart Growth America released an important study that illustrates how walkable development results in huge savings and significantly better returns for municipalities compared to car-centric development. The analysis of 17 case studies found that walkable, mixed-use development produces 10 times more local tax revenue per acre than sprawl. In addition, SGA found […]

The Suburbanist Paradox

|
The Atlantic Monthly’s Matthew Yglesias argues that high-density living is a key strategy to fight climate change. Yglesias takes issue with fellow Atlantic Online blogger Ross Douthat and author Joel Kotkin, who defend suburban sprawl — what James Kunstler has famously called "the most destructive development pattern the world has ever seen, and perhaps the […]