Sprawl. It’s a gas.

If you have a 900-square-foot house, it’s less costly to heat, cool, maintain and easier to clean, secure and furnish than a 4000-sq.-ft. McMansion- especially if you are only one person. It also takes a lot less time from end to end, or top to bottom.

Same goes for a city. If you are on an island, like Manhattan- you build up more than out. You put a subway underneath- you save space by not expecting everyone to drive to work. Think about how many parking spaces a 100-story parking building would take- if everyone came in by car, alone? Now do you see the stupidity of requiring x number of parking spaces per square foot of finished space? If the Kettering Tower needed a surface parking lot using the equation of 1 spot for every 300 sq ft (a big cubicle) you’d cover all of downtown Dayton.

The same goes for our city- which is “our house.” The bigger it gets- the more it costs us- especially if it’s split up among fewer and fewer people. Every road, every foot of utilities, every school, police station, library, etc. costs all of us. The more we add, the more it costs. And we’re not even looking at the energy side of things- we’re just talking about providing the infrastructure.

Moving from here to there costs us in gas, lots of which comes from people we don’t particularly like. The more we have to drive- the more gas we consume, the whole thing gets ugly- and inefficient.

So even though they’ve never met a new interchange they didn’t like, the Dayton Daily News Editorial board just started to realize that our car-culture is very expensive:

So the car-centered lifestyle still looks relatively attractive, notwithstanding all the warnings we as a country have received about the unreliability of oil supplies and the unreliability of oil prices.

As a community — a region — that continues to play the car card, we should be among the leaders in pushing for ways to make it a better card: for cars that are more energy-efficient, for cars that run on alternative fuels, and for new supplemental forms of transportation — like trains and better transit systems.

It’s just a matter of hedging a big bet.

via Editorial: Growth along I-75 requires new focus on energy | A Matter of Opinion.

Of course they put their new print technology center in a cornfield in Warren County long ago.

However their thinking is so pedestrian (pun intended) that the best they can come up with is higher efficiency cars, new fuels or better public transit. Not exactly the answers we need. Not even interesting enough to start a good debate.

In order for the Dayton region to catch up with progressive places that passed anti-sprawl legislation long ago, or embraced public transit, or “complete streets” for bike commuting- we need to come up with much more powerful ideas:

Repopulate the core: Dayton has an abundance of cheap housing. It’s also a big HUBzone. The open H1B visas for investing and importing foreigners into these areas would be a bold way to strengthen both the core and the nation- letting industry pay the tab. I talked about it here first: crazy economic development idea.

Instead of building offices and plants far away from workforces- or forcing commutes, which cost social capital in terms of unproductive time, and add wear and tear on roads and burn up fuel- why not reward companies and employees with a walk to work tax credit? The less we drive the healthier and wealthier we will be.

Public transit is fine, but must it be limited to “light rail” or trains or even traditional transit systems? Is bike share a way to move people around in dense areas that saves us wear and tear on roads? Cuts gas consumption? For several million dollars we can have something that puts Dayton on the map- and cuts down the costs of moving around short distances.

Or maybe a folding electric bike- from YikeBike. It’s an amazing compact folding electric bicycle. Watch the video:

Is this an alternative?

Or a low-cost monorail system like the Urbanaut? Older versions like the ones at Disneyland capture the imagination of the city of the future- yet we just spent $77 million on just another highway interchange.

When cities first sprouted up they were typically near rivers, natural ports, easily defensible positions or beautiful vistas. All are natural features that can’t be replicated. Now, we’re locked into the idea of putting things next to off-ramps because, well, we take the car for granted. Once you start building things for people again, instead of cars, we’ll look back at these excesses and wonder why.

Today’s Dayton Grassroots Daily Show talks about the relationship between the cost of energy and the cost of sprawl. Watch it and put on your thinking cap- is there a better way to meet the challenges of having less people live in a bigger area who are totally dependent on cheap energy?

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