Air-pollution-free, efficient, tax-sufficient, infrastructure-adequate, suburban living? I wish!

Ah, it’s the suburban life for me. It’s what I’m familiar with as far as residential living goes. It’s what’s I’ve known. But, is living the suburban life what is best?

For 20 years I resided in Baltimore, Maryland. I can remember getting my first car at age 16. As a matter of fact, each day, five days per week, I drove the 28 roundtrip miles from my home to junior college and back, that is, when I attended. And, it was during this time that I got my first taste of traffic congestion.

What I had not realized was that the model of living adopted, a model that encouraged driving, freeway driving, especially, is what, in my view, was the direct cause of the extra driving time encountered in trying to get from point A to point B using the freeway, that is, during the peak travel-time periods, mind you. Driving the same route off-peak, it was an entirely different story.

The intent of the super highway is a noble one, I suppose, what with its higher speed limit and all. But, what was created to expedite the movement of cars, buses and trucks, sometimes backfired, the outcome, of course, being traffic slowdowns and tie-ups. This is what I would call an unintended consequence of suburban living. Another is air pollution.

In Pennsylvania, Lancaster Online staff writer Jeff Hawkes, has hit the nail on the head in “The price of sprawl.”

He wrote: “It turns out I was wrong to trust others to do my infrastructure thinking for me. They’ve botched the job.

“They built expansive subdivisions and strip malls. They put in a maze of infrastructure to service sprawl. And they didn’t stop to consider that things wear out and the cost of repairs and upgrades is enormous.”

And I would add that it is those and other fiscal considerations that can bankrupt, and in some cases, has bankrupted cities.

Hawkes also made clear that, “Charles Marohn is the expert on this monumental oversight. He’s an engineer and land-use planner who’s (sic) new mission in life is alerting America to what he calls the Ponzi scheme of our post-World War II pattern of development.

“Inefficient growth had the short-term benefit of increasing the tax base of municipalities, but revenue from the growth hasn’t covered the long-term costs of maintaining the infrastructure.”

And, unless these long-term costs can somehow be met, outward, horizontal expansion is, in my view, unsustainable.

With that said, in trying to circumvent this deficit situation, two words immediately come to mind: Smart Growth or, in other words, growth done smartly, efficiently and sustainably.

One question: Where do I sign up?

Leave a Comment