Size Doesn’t Matter

A week ago or so when news swirled again about cities going broke, I wrote about Harrisburg and Stockton and their giant public investment gambles being merely the straw the broke the camels back, much like the Guggenheim was merely the cherry on top of Bilbao’s sundae.  In other words, there were underlying issues behind the simple explanation.  Harrisburg and Stockton merely pushed the remainder of their chips into the center of the table and lost.  However, their going bust holding 2-7 unsuited doesn’t explain their gambling problem or why they were dwindling chips beforehand.

Surprisingly, this data scrolled across my computer from a 2006 Brookings Inst. study ranking metropolitan areas by Vehicle Miles Traveled per capita.  In terms of Metropolitan areas, the greater the per capita VMT, the greater the amount of local money leaves the area, and even worse, the greater the imbalance between infrastructure and tax base.  Stockton and Harrisburg were 4th and 5th in the country (If Richmond, Little Rock, and Jackson, MS aren’t worried about their future, they ought to be).  Incidentally, New York City metro is last (1st?) in the country in least amount of VMT per capita.

So I began digging for more data to substantiate the theory that more highway infrastructure per capita tends towards lower density and greater vehicle miles traveled, i.e., things further and further apart meaning too much infrastructural cost burden combined with too dispersed tax base.