Streetsblog.net

Car-free in Montana

Some thoughts today from one of the newest members of the Streetsblog Network -- from Missoula, Montana, Imagine No Cars. The blog's author is a University of Montana student who is chronicling his year of living without a motor vehicle. He calls the blog "a journal of my journey to live a car-free lifestyle. An experiment to bike, walk, and bus it through the next year of my life. What will not using a car mean?" (Check out his photostream on Flickr, too. Some nice stuff there.)

193715977_4fe07b6ffc.jpgPhoto of Missoula, Montana, by Justin Brockie via Flickr.
Car-free living isn't all he's writing about, though. In a recent post, he takes a look at Missoula's master-plan-in-the-making,  and in particular the contentious issue of "Additional Dwelling Units," or "ADUs" -- second residential units, like mother-in-law apartments or rental apartments, added to existing residential properties:

Those opposed to ADUs claim they are worried about the “character” of a neighborhood and the density that they may bring with them. I may be wrong, but what I hear is that people don’t want those with lower incomes mixing into their nice, high income neighborhoods….

The reality is that this is an issue of how we, as a community, want to accommodate future growth. Missoula already has a large problem when it comes to supplying affordable housing, so do we want to continue to build large apartment complexes full of low and middle income residents on the edge of town, like those built in the last few years around North Reserve? This creates an additional problem of forcing people who have less means to afford commuting to have longer commutes.

We have a choice to make. Do we want development to occur on the edge of town, or do we want to concentrate on infill? If we continue to grow outwards, large developers, retiring farmers, and the construction industry win out big, but Missoula will lose valuable farm land, open space, and wildlife habitat that helps to make Missoula a great place to live, while taking more money from taxpayers for infrastructure, increasing congestion, and pollution. If we choose infill, we get to keep the overall character of Missoula, keep the open spaces we love so much for recreation, and create a more walkable community while giving homeowners the ability to invest in their own property to provide a better income and home for Missoula residents not lucky enough to afford a home.

This blog is a great reminder of how Streetsblog Network members around the country are thoughtfully engaging the development process in all kinds of environments -- urban, suburban, rural, semi-rural. We now are following 262 blogs from 43 different states, and there's nothing homogeneous about them. They're each seeking smart solutions to transportation and planning problems on a local level. It's a pleasure to watch.