Here’s a guy to keep an eye on:

Charles Marohn is a Professional Engineer licensed in the State of  Minnesota and a member of the American Institute of Certified Planners.    He is president of Strong Towns, a non-partisan, non-profit organization that advocates for changes in development patterns and a complete understanding of the full costs of methods of growth.

I referenced his TED talk a few posts ago in an Annals of Motordom – but here it is again, because it’s definitely worth a look if you missed it:


New Urban Network recently featured a post from him: A 45 mph World – ostensibly critiquing the design of an interchange but really making three points on why the vehicle-dependent transportation system we have built is just too wasteful to afford.  Within the piece is an observation – and a clever new term – that’s worth highlighting:

Americans do not understand the difference between a road and a street.

Roads move people between places while streets provide a framework for capturing value within a place.

The value of a road is in the speed and efficiency that it provides  for movement between places. Anything that is done that reduces the  speed and efficiency of a road devalues that road. If we want to  maximize the value of a road, we eliminate anything that reduces the  speed and efficiency of travel.

The value of a street comes from its ability to support land use  patterns that create capturable value. The street with the highest value  is the one that creates the greatest amount of tax revenue with the  least amount of public expense over multiple life cycles. If we want to  maximize the value of a street, we design it in such a way that it  supports an adjacent development pattern that is financially resilient,  architecturally timeless and socially enduring.

These simple concepts are totally lost on us, especially those in the  engineering profession. If you want to start to see the world with  Strong Towns eyes and truly understand why our development approach is  bankrupting us, just watch your speedometer. Anytime you are traveling  between 30 and 50 miles per hour, you are basically in an area that is  too slow to be efficient yet too fast to provide a framework for  capturing a good rate of return.

In the United States, we’ve built a 45 mile per hour world for  ourselves. It is truly the worst of all possible approaches. Our  neighborhoods are filled with STROADS (a street/road hybrid) that spread  investment out horizontally, making it extremely difficult to capture  the amount of value necessary for the public to sustain the  transportation systems that serve them. Between our neighborhoods, towns  and cities we have built STROADS that are encumbered with  intersections, vehicles turning across traffic, merging cars and people  taking routine local trips. These are not fast, safe and efficient  corridors.

At best, the diverging diamond interchange is putting lipstick on a  pig. At worst, it is a continuation of our fantasy that somehow we can  sustain prosperity without building places of value. The Death Star  pedestrian trench is despotic and demeaning. In the big picture, it is  also an utterly meaningless waste of money. We need to build places of  value.

We need to start building Strong Towns.