Blog: The Return Of 5 Posts You Should Read

Over the last nine months Metromode has made space for 34 of Metro Detroit's thought leaders to offer their opinions and experiences about a variety of issues and topics. This week we'd like to point you toward a few that you might have missed along the way. Please, feel free to join in. It's not a conversation without your comments.

David Knapp

Land. A finite resource. One that some on Wall Street will tell you is the best investment you can make.

But to us, it’s an infinite dispensable commodity. One which since we initially settled this country was ours for the taking. And to lay claim to it was to devour it.

Today, we uphold that mindset and continue to consume land at alarming rates disregarding any signs that would tell us otherwise. Arthur C. Nelson, PhD, professor at the Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, in his Brookings Institution paper Toward a New Metropolis: The Opportunity to Rebuild America, says, "more than 3,000 square miles of land annually is converted to residential development over one acre in size." Fortunately for us, most of this sprawl takes place at the expense of farms, virgin landscapes, forests and other wildlife habitats. Consume-on!

The effects of sprawl are finally starting to show. Not only are we gobbling up land at increasing rates, but we’re all paying for it too! It’s not like we haven’t been paying for it in gas taxes, transportation taxes, and federal highway project costs. Cause we have! What about the new sewers, water mains, and other public utilities that go out into our new sprawling one acre residential tracts?  Who knows? Who cares?

I’ll tell you one thing that I do know, it wasn’t free. Who’s paying for it?...  Right.

The reality here is that most of us fail to realize how a lot of our tax dollars are being spent. Locally, it’s even a bigger a disaster. We continue to be at the bottom of the list in terms of the percentage of federal dollars reinvested in transportation projects proportionate to the tax dollars we send to Washington.  States and regions above us on this list all have alternative transportation systems in place and is one of the main reasons for our lackluster reinvestment figures.

What am I getting at here? We need to stop subsidizing other region’s transportation projects and we need to stop subsidizing the proliferation of our own sprawl.

In Michigan, specifically in Metro Detroit, it needs to start somewhere and it needs to start now! We have to curb sprawl and start treating our land like an investment. We need to stop building roads and stop building one acre-lot residential housing out beyond the periphery. We need to quit adding new on to our already aging and dilapidated infrastructural systems because it will only further perpetuate the financial burden passed back onto us tomorrow. We absolutely must balance our transportation spending between road maintenance (notice: not "road proliferation") mass transit and other means of transportation.  And I don’t mean splitting the dollar 98%, 1% and 1% respectively. Let’s invest more in mass transit, cause without it, at the rate we’re going, we won’t be able to afford to be motorists in the Motor City.

Plan now for a better future. Long-term thinking… right? Who knows, maybe then Washington will be willing to kick back a few more dollars of our own money?

Sounds like a plan to me. 

Read the rest of David's blog here.