AHC: Prevent Change the United States Urban Highway System

Discussion in 'Alternate History Discussion: After 1900' started by Divergent54, Nov 8, 2019.

  1. Divergent54 Boris Johnson x Nigel Farage xoxo Gone Fishin'

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    The American urban highways were built mostly by demolishing minority and/or poor neighbourhoods and to ensure they go through cities rather than around it. This, in turn, congested these urban highways between interstate drivers passing by and intra-urban commuters. Additional traffic congestion leads to increasing noise pollution in surrounding neighbourhoods (who were mostly black and/or poor), thus lowering their value. Not to mention that they reduce taxable income for cities and it would only push them further into a more car-orientated direction, reducing their walkability.

    Is there anyway to change the American urban highway system so they could be built around cities rather than through it ?

    Perhaps kill off Robert Moses since he acted as a major consultant in directing highway construction through cities rather than around it as it originally was supposed to be during the Eisenhower administration ?
     
  2. kernals12 Proudly on the Autism Spectrum

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    I know it's become fashionable to blame highways for every single urban problem, but it is completely insane to think cities would be better off without them. Grade seperated highways are extremely safe and efficient at moving people and goods, public transit can only move people to a limited number of destinations and can't move any goods at all. Railroads were also built by demolishing minority and/or poor neighborhoods btw.

    Phoenix didn't go on a mass highway building craze until the 1980s, that didn't stop enormous amounts of urban sprawl, and it meant surface streets were clogged with traffic.
     
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  3. Divergent54 Boris Johnson x Nigel Farage xoxo Gone Fishin'

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    I think you misread the original post a bit.

    I'm talking about building US highways around cities not through it. You know, like this :

    [​IMG]

    I never mentioned in the original post that I wanted to get rid of them altogether ?
     
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  4. kernals12 Proudly on the Autism Spectrum

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    The M25 is infamous for its congestion. And anyone wanting to get to the City has to go through a minefield of traffic lights.
    [​IMG]
    Meanwhile, across the pond, Lower manhattan can be accessed easily by FDR drive.

    And highways aren't just for cars, they're used by trucks, buses, and ambulances (except for New York's parkways, explicitly designed for passenger vehicles with its low bridges.
     
  5. kernals12 Proudly on the Autism Spectrum

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    By making downtowns less accessible, you're going to push more business into the suburbs.
     
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  6. Maniakes Well-Known Member

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    The Interstate Highway System was largely built on that model, with the main highways bypassing urban centers for through traffic and spur routes splitting off for traffic into/out-of the cities.

    There is an older "US Route" system that didn't follow this model, though, as well as various state/local highway/parkway/expressway projects. I'm guessing these are what you're thinking of.
     
  7. phx1138 Bocagiste troll

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    AIUI, the IHS was meant to follow ring roads (or create them), not enter downtowns.

    It didn't.

    Most of the problems with sprawl are a product of stupid city/state taxation (so 'burb developers don't pay the full cost & mil rates are lower) & stupid federal mortgage subsidies (which mostly go to the rich & very big houses). IHS is not causal.
     
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  8. kernals12 Proudly on the Autism Spectrum

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    America's most expensive houses are located at the top of glass towers in Manhattan and San Francisco, not in the suburbs.
     
  9. Misanthrope better living through modern chemistry

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    As you said, Eisenhower wanted the highway system to go around major cities instead of through them.

    Unfortunately, in order to change the process, I think you would need to stop the coalition of suburban land-owners and developers who wanted inner-city access and the state and local governments who looked at inner-city freeways as "slum removal".

    I still think this leads to a car-centric culture as development would move to the ring roads, instead of into the inter-cities, forming poly-centric cities where the original "loop route" is now inside enough of the suburbs to have it's own traffic problems like 610 in Houston or 285 in Atlanta.
     
  10. George Carty Member

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    Isn't the funding of public schools out of local property taxes (as opposed to state or federal taxes) another big driver of sprawl in the United States, as middle-class parents (anxious to protect the quality of their children's schools) are hugely incentivized to fight for zoning restrictions that will price poor people out of their neighborhood?
     
  11. Workable Goblin Chronicler of the Pony Wars

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    I don't think so. Looking at this list, only three out of the twenty most expensive homes in the United States were located in condominium towers (all in New York). The other seventeen were all giant mansions, mostly in suburban or rural areas. Same on this list: three condominiums, two townhomes, fifteen mansions. More mansions here, too. Where I live, in Honolulu--not exactly noted for its cheap homes and famously desirable--the median condo price is about half of the median single-family home price.

    All of this shouldn't be terribly surprising, really. Mansions are expensive and the rural fixation of the United States has always lured people, including the very wealthy, into non-urban areas.
     
  12. phx1138 Bocagiste troll

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    It might be, but I've never heard it blamed. AIUI, the synergy between developers & the feds works like this. Federal deductions for mortgages enables rich people to buy bigger houses. That induces less-rich people to want bigger houses. The only way they can afford them is to buy in lower-tax areas. Developers building 'burbs don't pay the cost of water & sewer & such, so costs are lower. (Taxes are lower, too, but why that is, I don't recall...:oops: ) And so you get sprawl.

    AIUI, schools are paid for out of the total city budget, not by neighborhood, so high income shouldn't affect the mil rate; high property taxes would hit everybody equally. Unless the taxation is done differently elsewhere; it might be.
     
  13. marathag Well-Known Member with a target on his back

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    That trend started decades earlier, in Victorian times, with the shift to more bedrooms. It was thought that sickness wouldn't spread as easy with individual beds. Before a Bed could have as many children that could fit, after WWI, once out of the crib, would ideally have their own bed, and so needed more square footage

    The Sears House kit floorplans matched up with this
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
     
  14. phx1138 Bocagiste troll

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    It wasn't limited to the listed causes, for sure. We can add the development of rail, leading to the streetcar 'burb.

    Like the pix.:):cool: I'm still blown away by the idea of buying a house from Sears.:eek:
     
  15. Workable Goblin Chronicler of the Pony Wars

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    No, not really. In a good portion of the United States, schools are paid for by school districts that don't necessarily line up with urban boundaries, and even where they are paid for by cities the "cities" themselves may very well be just a neighborhood (look up the "cities" of Bellaire and West University Place, for instance). This is the case in a lot of highly segregated areas particularly, where the school district/city boundaries just so happen to line up such that one school district (the "bad" district) contains most of the poor and brown folk in the area, and the other districts (the "good" districts) contain most of the white and wealthy folk.

    They don't really. First of all, high property value, which tends to be correlated with high income, itself increases property tax revenue. After all, at an equal mil rate a property worth a million dollars is going to produce ten times as much tax revenue as one worth one hundred thousand dollars. Even if the properties have the same areal value (that is, the million-dollar property is just ten times bigger than the hundred-thousand dollar property), the lower density of children means that they have more per capita revenue, thereby producing "better" schools.

    Second, as noted above the taxation districts tend to be drawn in such a way that properties in the "good" areas are actually in different districts than those in the "bad" areas, and so can impose entirely different rates, if they so choose. The "good" districts could very well be imposing higher tax rates than those in the "bad" areas.

    Third, quite aside from the question of schools people want high property values so that they can feel like they're making a lot of money from owning their home (regardless of how true this is, or how rational it is to want to make a lot of money from owning your home), and in most of the United States this is best done by, essentially, maximizing sprawl; ordinary folk can't own an apartment building, but they can own a single-family home in the suburbs, and then by banning the construction of apartment buildings or other identifiers they can ensure that the limited market forces home prices in your area up, assuming they picked somewhere desirable like the Bay Area or Seattle.
     
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  16. phx1138 Bocagiste troll

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    Not houses.

    Can you say "Hollywood"?

    And the statistics say the money isn't going where the lawmakers meant it to. It's going to people who already have lots of it.