Sunday, April 08, 2007

Mass Transit Contributes to Sprawl???

Anti-sprawl advocates often hail affordable mass transit as a great way to cut down on the ever-expanding exurbs and revitalize a center city. If light rail is easily available, the thinking goes, planners won't need to include as much space for parking in their plans. Residents can live without cars, closer to the city, and thus reversal the trend of urban sprawl.

At least, that's the conventional thinking on mass transit and urban sprawl. Consider this, however: if you work for the federal government in Washington DC, you get paid a generous ($100) stipend to cover your mass transit-related costs. Perversely, this compensation actually makes it easier to live outside the center city! Without the public transit perk, a Federal employee might decide it's cheaper to live closer to work (in the city, that is). With the public transit perk, however, a Federal employee is not penalized financially for locating outside the city.

Although the subsidy does indeed encourage use of mass transit (as opposed to auto), it does not necessarily reduce the problem of urban sprawl. Certainly, I'll grant the using rail instead of a personal car helps the environment and allows denser development to take place, but in this instance I'm not convinced that the direct MTA subsidy helps as much as it is intended.

Coming this Friday: My Loftstyle Lifestyle!


Blogger Frank A. Mills said...

The Portland Max line to Hillsboro is a perfect example of transit, lightrail in this case, contributing to sprawl with its Orenenco/W. 231 TOD development in the midst of what was essentially farmland before the coming of the Blue Line.

9:25 AM  

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