Muh Roads: Stop Subsidizing Sprawl

Urban Sprawl (8427451222)I used to live “in the country.” Now I arguably live “in the suburbs.”

No, I haven’t moved closer to the city (Gainesville, Florida). The city’s moved closer to me.

When I moved into my current residence ten years ago, the area around me was largely farmland,  and most residences were either older farmhouses or mobile homes sitting on lots of an acre or more.

Now, only a decade later, I’m nearly surrounded by “suburban housing developments” — expensive homes on small lots, marketed to professionals who work in the city but don’t want to live there.

And hey, that’s how it should be, right? Live where you want to live. Work where you want to work.

But don’t expect everyone else to subsidize your choices.

As the burbs have expanded outward and past my own digs, the main artery connecting them to city workplaces and markets has become more and more congested — “rush hour” traffic jams mean the speed limit may be 60 miles per hour but the average speed is much lower (during “rush hour,” I can ride my bicycle into town on the road-adjacent trail faster than people can travel on the road itself).

When a developer decides to turn a large plot of land into a piece of “suburbia,” one of the main considerations is ease of commute … and neither developers nor prospective residents want to shoulder the costs of road expansion to keep traffic moving.

Try proposing a toll road in any area and see who squawks loudest. It will be the people who use the road and would have to pay the tolls (and the developers trying to sell houses to them).

Instead of “paying their fair share,” they want to shift much of the cost to urban residents who get lower gas mileage (and thus pay more pro rata in gas taxes) and who aren’t even using those suburban roads; to rural residents who aren’t rushing into town and would likely be perfectly happy with two lanes of blacktop; and to pedestrians and cyclists who pay sales taxes that make up the deficit when gas taxes aren’t enough, all while taking their lives in their own hands interacting with entitled, lead-footed suburban motorists.

I have no problem with people moving to the suburbs and commuting to work. But they should shoulder the costs of their preferred lifestyles instead of sticking everyone else with the check.

Thomas L. Knapp (Twitter:@thomaslknapp) is director and senior news analyst at the William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism ( He lives and works in north central Florida.