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The Road to the Future Is Not a Drive-Thru

2817590468_241ec6a0b3.jpgMcMansions overlook a strip mall parking lot in Franklin, Wisconsin. (Photo: John Michlig via Flickr)

This morning on the Streetsblog Network, a cry of frustration from member blog Sprawled Out in the Milwaukee suburb of Franklin, Wisconsin.

Sprawled Out's John Michlig has been looking at some of the findings from the Brookings Institution's "The State of Metropolitan America" report, which we wrote about earlier in the week. The report, among other things, notes that traditional suburbs like Franklin are losing young, affluent, educated residents to cities with good transit and lively downtowns -- a phenomenon one of the report's authors refers to as "bright flight."

Michlig, whose blog is subtitled "The Search for Community in the American Suburb," writes:

So, the question is: What will suburbs like mine do to meet this challenge? I can tell you what Franklin, Wisconsin, is currently doing: Nothing.

No initiatives, projects, forums or incentive programs. In fact, we just pledged a half million dollars to a neighboring community for a superfluous highway interchange, a move that tells the world that Franklin is still about a decade behind the curve.…

Compared with the end of 2008, the average household is now spending an extra $135 a month for fuel. But, to repeat: My suburb just pledged $500,000 to build a highway interchange that we don't need in a neighboring community. And it's not just money that will be going to the edge of town and over the border, it will be development as well. Why build a neighborhood-based coffee shop when you can toss up an offramp-serving drive-thru java shed right next to the freeway?

At the same time, Franklin is pouring money into a streetscape design for a commercial strip that all but ignores transit options like dedicated bus lanes and Zipcar facilities. Instead, our big-ticket item on 27th Street is "enhanced lighting"  -- the seventh most popular item mentioned on preference surveys….

If success and sustainability are a destination, perhaps it's time suburbs -- mine in particular -- realize that the road that brought them here won't get them there.

More from around the network: Urban Out writes about what Cincinnati has that Indianapolis lacks -- "the power of a place." Twin City Sidewalks tries to dispel some misconceptions about bike boulevards. And Broken Sidewalk wonders if a bike lane on a bridge could significantly increase ridership in Louisville, Kentucky.

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