Thursday, July 07, 2011

Rust Wire Looks At Highway Socialism's Tragic Impact On Youngstown

Youngstown, Ohio, is a city in many ways struggling with success to revive it's beautiful downtown and create a financially sustainable path for livable urbanism. Residents have overwhelmingly supported a program to more rationally use the city's smaller resource base by shrinking streets and rightsizing neighborhoods--in a region in which not only the city but the surrounding area have lost 6% of their population in the last decade alone.

Meanwhile, the city competes with a county and state bent on socialising wasteful roads which bleed the city's tax base for ever spreading suburban sprawl.

From Rust Wire

"State Route 224 in Boardman is not the type of road that planners or sustainability advocates would delight in seeing replicated. Traffic slogs down this commercial corridor at a snail’s pace most times of day. The local paper, The Vindicator, described driving on the street as everything from “exasperating and near impossible to unbelievable and scary.” (It just underwent widening.)

The entire six-mile commercial stretch of SR 244 lacks a foot of sidewalk space. So as much as a headache as it is to drive on, it’s far worse for pedestrians. Furthermore, stormwater runoff from the acres of parking lots along this route have contributed to a persistent and costly flooding problem in Boardman Township."

People in these often Republican suburbs need to understand the process and ethics behind this for what it is-Socialism.

So how did Western Reserve rocket up the infrastructure priority list in the Youngstown area? Well, again, that’s a matter of public policy in a state that continues to favor growth. Because Boardman and Canfield Townships are unincorporated, they won’t have to pay a dime to widen Western Reserve. It’s a county road — that means the county picks up the bill. Many suburbs, including Boardman Township (population 37,000) benefit from remaining unincorporated, allowing them to foist many of their infrastructure costs onto the county.

The injustice of this whole arrangement is that the costs of widening the road will be shared by all residents of the county — including the people who live in Youngstown. Youngstown’s roads will go unmaintained, and the county will continue to draw money from central city residents and redistribute it into the suburbs and exurbs.

To a large extent this story could have been with a few revisions been about the insane, ugly and destructive sprawl around Pittsburgh, Cleveland, Akron, Detroit or an endless number of cities.

A piece by Chuck Banas, titled, "The Sprawl Bubble" might the best succinct description of the problem.

All of this is stupefyingly expensive. These indirect costs constitute the majority of the expense, yet remain invisible to most people—spread-out in the form of local, state, and federal taxes, or camouflaged as municipal bond debt or various other forms of government debt. So in addition to being redundant, this means that suburbia is a doubly expensive living arrangement.

The other point that I’m trying to make is that the migration of wealth to the suburbs has not been a free-market phenomenon. Customer choice is only a small part of the equation, or this wouldn’t have happened in virtually every American city at the exact same time in the exact same way. Which, of course, is exactly how it did happen.

I assert that much of the economic crisis we’re seeing today is simply the end result of decades of bad decisions driven by bad economic, transportation, housing, and land-use policy.

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