Thursday, May 3, 2012

Lessons and Logic of Highways & Associated Development

There is a necessary lesson to both learn and understand when approaching the yay highway/nay highway debate.  And that is the concept of inter-city freeways vs. intra-city freeways.

Inter-city freeways are largely outside of the city.  And by city, I mean densely interconnected walkable development.  They connect metropolitan areas, macro-destinations.  Houston to DFW.  These are good.

Then there are intra-city freeways.  These are the highways inside of cities.  That because of their corrosive, disconnective nature you're practically forced onto in order to reach micro-destinations, like your work, your house, the store,  the park, etc.  If you have to get on a highway to reach any of these things, chances are there is a problem endemic to the system of the city itself.

There is a reason one is compatible with its surroundings and the other is incompatible.  And that is the defining logic governing suburban/exurban auto-dependent development form and that of walkable, integrated urban development.

It is:
Outside the city - land is more valuable the closer you get to the freeway (centerless, value seeks a lifeline, viability). 
Inside the city - land is more valuable the further away you get from freeways (value seeks a center, amenity/opportunity/desirability).
Therefore, in the city (if we want high-yield development in terms of tax base) adding freeways is the opposite of what we should be doing.  Unless we're TRYING to catapult investment outside the proverbial city walls.

You can't make Inside-the-city compete with Outside-the-city without making it look like Outside-the-city.  And that yields low value development.  And low value = little care.