The Keys to Modernizing America's DOTs

According to Charles Marohn, institutional inertia continues to carry the nation's transportation agencies on a wayward path that correlates highway spending with economic development. He offers 9 principles to guide "Next Generation DOTs."
January 7, 2013, 6am PST | Jonathan Nettler | @nettsj
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Marohn argues that the "highway building heyday" has left the nation's transportation agencies simultaneously over committed and under funded. "In reality," he says, the corellation between highway building and increased prosperity is "an illusion brought about by quick and easy development leveraged off these massive investments."

"It is the Ponzi scheme of the Suburban Experiment," he adds. "We're in the unwinding phase."

So what are the principles and understandings that America's DOTs must embody to correct course? Marohn offers the following:

  1. Transportation spending is not economic development.
  2. Transportation spending is not job creation.
  3. We need to budget based on what we have, not what we want to do.
  4. The most unsafe condition we can build is a STROAD. Our primary design goal must be to eliminate them.
  5. We must build differently within a city than we build outside of it.
  6. We need to improve travel time by eliminating access points outside of cities.
  7. We must stop using traffic projections to give a veneer of expertise to something we have proven incapable of doing: predicting the future.
  8. We need to build transit, but only through a value capture funding approach.
  9. We must remain humble in the face of adversity.

"The word contraction is sure to become part of this generation's lexicon," concludes Marohn, "particularly when it comes to and cities and our infrastructure systems. We need to acknowledge -- to ourselves and to society -- that we do not have a pain free solution to the contraction dilemma. In fact, our toolbox contains no solutions, just rational responses that begin with acknowledging the reality of contraction."

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Published on Friday, January 4, 2013 in Better! Cities & Towns
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