“Building Cities Shouldn’t Be a Partisan Issue”

Over the weekend, we came across an article from the Isthmus of Madison, Wisconsin, reporting on a conservative scaremongering campaign against a commuter rail proposal.

It
quotes a leader in the Wisconsin Republican Party painting
transit-oriented development as a red menace: "This has been done
before," Dane County Republican Party spokesman Bill Richardson said on
a Madison radio show. "The Soviet Union and in East Berlin and all
those places. They built these … very ugly high-rise apartments, and
they jammed people into these."

We were happy to see that Streetsblog Network member The Overhead Wire posted a quick response to this nonsense:

1532449728_1b17935342.jpgWhat kind of development is really being forced on Americans? (Photo: co-plex via Flickr)

[E]veryone who reads here knows the histories and the market
distortions of sprawl, which has absolutely dominated the market over
the last 60 years. If anything, it’s they who are forcing everyone to
live their lifestyle, a sick distortion of the actual desires of at
least some Americans, such as myself, who want to live in an urban
walkable environment. By not providing a choice in living, or
transportation, the opponents of livable communities are telling us
that the actual market doesn’t matter and that they know what is best…

We know that not all in their circle believe this way, and ultimately building cities shouldn’t be a partisan issue.
The road towards transit and walkability is a sustainable one from a
fiscal and environmental standpoint. I think many times we overlook the
power of fiscal arguments for the movement at our own peril. The research on sprawl is not good, and people are starting to get it, a bit late, but at least they are starting to see how value is created by cities and urbanism is a fiscally responsible choice.

It
will be interesting to see how the division over transportation policy
among conservatives develops in the next few months. Will the ideology
of fear trump more evidence-based economic analysis? What do you think?

More from around the network: Hugeass City wanted a coffee, but needed to be in a car to get served at one Seattle Starbucks. Copenhagenize reports on bicycle theft and insurance profiteering in the Danish cycling paradise. And Tucson Bike Lawyer has a dispatch on biking in Bogotá.

  • zsolt

    On the one hand, it is of course nonsense. However there may be a time when many Americans will appreciate those “very ugly high-rise apartments”.

    I recently finished reading “Reinventing Collapse”, which describes the collapse of the Soviet Union, and how the lessons can be applied to collapse scenarios in the U.S. (mainly due to energy shortages). It turns out that the SU government building those ugly high-rises, providing them to people for free (there are no mortgages there), and connecting them with public transit, was in large part responsible for Russia and other formerly Soviet countries weathering the downfall as reasonably well as they did. They are ugly, but they are indestructible, they don’t wreck their inhabitants’ finances and people can live in them with no cars.

    Of course, in the U.S. we have none of this. The US has built this extremely fragile setup with suburbs and mortgages and cars, which will and does not fare well in any sort of recession or energy shortage.

    It is a sign of the perversion of U.S. politics that attitudes to prolong this vulnerability are the bread and butter of the so-called conservatives.

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