One Way to Cure Congestion: Urban Abandonment

Jeff Wood at Reconnecting America attended the Congress for the New Urbanism’s annual gathering in Madison last week, and he recently posted this short Q&A with CNU President John Norquist. It happens to be a pretty timely and snappy interview.

Angie wrote this morning about Kaid Benfield’s ideas about “right-sizing” Detroit. Benfield focuses on how sprawl has hollowed out the inner city, expanding the footprint of metro region while the overall population held relatively steady. In his interview with Wood, Norquist expresses his take on Detroit:

In an interview with Ben two years ago, Norquist made this point even clearer:

You can of course defeat congestion. Environmentalists sometimes say that you can’t build your way out of congestion; that’s not true. It’s been done in Detroit, they built their way out of congestion. They built all these freeways all over Detroit and congestion is now probably their lowest priority problem. They have a lot of other problems, like they lost more than half their population, most of the jobs, the real estate values collapsed. They tore down all the streetcars by 1956 and built these freeways all over the city. So it does work, if the only priority you have is reducing congestion, you can do it by building these giant roads across cities. But then it’ll hurt the city in every other way and they hurt the national economy too, because your cities are what really drive value.

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