Friday, March 26, 2010

Documenting Our Region's Sprawl

Affordable housing advocates in Waukesha County have a blog and have posted links to a housing study underway by a committee set up, after more than 35 years of planning inaction, by the Southeastern Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission.

Data show that population densities have decreased in the region over the decades, and as the fair housing folks conclude, this means that people are living further from work and other activities, thus .

Again, it means that jobs are more inaccessible for people without cars in the region because of inadequate public transit, so the economic segregation plaguing the region, with poor people concentrated in Milwaukee, is bound to continue.

And let's not overlook the role SEWRPC has played in this dynamic, as it produced, and advocated for, a $6.5 billion regional freeway plan that includes 127 miles of new freeway lanes.

And more discreet highway plans, such as the SEWRPC endorsement of an interchange in Western Waukesha County to serve the faltering exurban Pabst Farms development and a shopping mall there that is years delayed and may never happen.

Yes, the region has sprawled out, but let's not pretend that it's all due to the unseen hand of the market and purely individual choices.

Government at many levels has encouraged the trend, with actions that include:

The creation of the interstate system and massive, related arterial and street construction.

Home mortgage and property tax deductions. on income tax returns.

Use of Industrial Revenue Bonding, tax incremental financing or office parks that use public subsidies to induce, create and move hospitals, schools (UW-M's engineering school and innovation center to the County Grounds, close to the hospital complex that used to be in central Milwaukee, for example) other businesses and jobs away from the cities.

Land-locking Milwaukee by special legislation in the mid-50's, barring further annexation and helping suburban economies grow.

Continuing suburban resistance to transit (Waukesha County killing light rail and choosing not to join a regional transit authority), and severing a bus link that got workers in Milwaukee to some suburban jobs.

Local ordinances mandating large lots or home square footage, or barring multi-family housing within their jurisdictions.

Will Lake Michigan water transfers be the next government action to guarantee more regional sprawl?

In southeastern Wisconsin, government plays a major role in pushing the economy and population farther from Milwaukee.

The cycle continues.


Anonymous said...

I thought you would be for larger lot sizes. See New Berlin's 3 and 5 acre zoning on the west side. Shallow aquifer wells, septic, self sustainable. It is the 3,000 sq. foot homes on the 20,000 lots in Waukesha that are the problem.

Crazy Politico said...

Actually, the abject failure that Milwaukee is pushes people farther from it.

The schools suck by any objective measure. Crime is pretty much out of control, and the mayor wants a new choo-choo to go to Madison on.

Business doesn't want to be in Milwaukee, so why have a bus line or light rail (read money sink) that goes there.

Waukesha, Ozaukee and Washington Counties are where the growth is. They should start the RTA and let Milwaukee beg in when it's figured out how to right it's sinking ship. By the time that happens the few residents there will be heading west and north to go to work.