Comment 26020

By Undustrial (registered) - website | Posted July 20, 2008 at 13:44:53

While I'm a big fan of two-way streets downtown, I have to agree with Chris - suburban chain store expansion is a major cause behind the downtown's decline. The more one increases the ability of the average person to travel along a diverse network (through subsidized automobile-based transportation systems and cheap oil) the laws of geography just start to break down. Why place a store, a workplace, or a housing development anywhere other than the cheapest place to build it (middle of nowhere, by definition), if people can drive across town in as little time as little time as it takes to drive downtown? This engenders massive wastes of land, both by causing the breakdown of all logical traffic flows (mixed-use main streets and traditional neighbourhoods), and requiring it for freeways and parking lots. In this type of system there's no need for density, since no matter how low it is, housing and shopping centres will still be more profitable uses of land than farms.

Economists should recognize the fallacy here - as long as road networks are publicly subsidized and essentially free, people will use them carelessly - sprawling cities out into the horizons, until southern ontario is one big suburb from London to Guelph to St. Catherines. This brings to mind the guy who furnished his apartment with tables, chairs and beds built from free fed-ex packaging - without a reasonable cost attached, there is no reason (other than foresight and wisdom) to use them rationally.

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