Monday, May 19, 2008

Paul Krugman Might As Well Have Been Writing About Pabst Farms

The New York Times economics columnist Paul Krugman writes succinctly about gas prices killing suburban development.

The higher that gas prices rise, the less appealing and affordable are the distant suburbs, and conversely, the more attractive are built cities, with transit and the other amenities provided by their density.

Which is why subdivision construction has been suspended at Pabst Farms, and why the state and Waukesha County should drop the idea of pouring millions into an I-94 interchange to serve a shopping mall at Pabst Farms that has less value as a destination with gas at $4-a-gallon, and rising.

There is a huge disconnect between events in the world and the macro-economy, and local budgets.

Public resources should be invested in transit, and to support cities, not to unnecessarily widen I-94 to Illinois and subsidize more suburban development with taxpayer-paid highways and Great Lakes diversions.

Yet the State of Wisconsin, the Southeastern Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission and annexation-happy local governments like the City of Waukesha and its water utility are spending millions on planning and billions on projects that push sprawl development farther from city centers and into exurban, rural areas.

And leaving transit out of these massive public investment schemes.

The marketplace, from China to India to American car-buyers' habits, is putting a big premium on the price of gasoline, yet Wisconsin governments, highway lobbyists, road-builders and other special interests are trying to engineer development through road and water projects and overcome the new realities of the costs of gasoline and auto commuting.

Where is the Krugman voice and philosophy in government at any level in Wisconsin - - in the State Capitol, the state Department of Transportation, SEWRPC, or in local offices - - that is not intimidated into silence by the road-builders and the Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce?

What will it take for a breakthrough in Wisconsin?
$5-a-gallon gasoline.




Anonymous said...

I was thinking the same thing this morning when I read it.

Anonymous said...

Someone directed me to the Krugman article, and I read it. Very well done, if only for the detail about the long life-cycle of housing stock compared to transportation technology and energy markets; once sprawl is built, we have to live with it for a while no matter how high the price of gasoline goes.