Monday, November 17

Is a dead-end public or private?

Most of us intuitively accept that we ought to pay for and take care of our own driveways. To ask the government of any level to step in and cover the cost of this private space smacks of socialism in its most extreme form. On the other hand, many of us accept that the major roadways a community needs to thrive are within the purview of the local or state government. Public funds should be used to pay for these. Pretty broad consensus here.

But what about those roads that are in between?

A high proportion of roads built within the last sixty years, particularly in suburban settings, have been deliberately designed to minimize public utility and maximize individual privacy. Take the standard cul-de-sac that serves a handful of households. The purpose of this design is to exclude the general public from passing through while serving the automotive needs of a small number of individuals. Does it pass our intuitive sense of fairness to declare that the entire public, say the local municipal citizenry, ought to foot the bill for what could essentially be considered a shared driveway? Perhaps a more important question: How does the government's decision of where to draw the line between public and private encourage or discourage the connectivity of the road system?

Many of these roads within subdivisions are currently funded with a mixture of private and public monies. Typically, the developer pays for the initial construction and the state (in Virginia's case) covers the maintenance costs. However, VDOT is considering shifting the balance away from paying for semi-private roadways at all. In technical terms, they want to require a minimum link-to-node ratio in order to fund the maintenance of any road.

"The link-node ratio is calculated by dividing the number of links (street segments and stub streets) by the number of nodes (intersections or cul-de-sacs). A perfect grid of streets will have a link-node ratio around 2.5 and a network of complete cul-de-sac or dead end streets with only one way in and one way out will have a link-node ratio of 1.0. It is suggested that a ratio of 1.4 will provide adequate connectivity in many situations"

This series of illustrations helped me understand the concept. Of course, this connectivity will have to be accompanied with traffic calming techniques and much narrower residential roads, but the ultimate result could lead to a vibrant multi-modal web of transportation. And our sense of fairness may find some relief.

1 comment:

Eric Orozco said...

Here in Charlotte there was a recent transportation study conducted by our DOT that compared fire department response rates and effective sizes of services areas at different connectivity index ratios. It found that stations in poorly connected areas (less than 1.1) cost an average of $586-$740 per capita annually (due to fiscal inefficiency) compared to $159-$206 in areas with connectivity ratio around 1.3. We are subsidizing much more than the road costs Daniel. (Take note...This is going to have fiscal teeth). Word of advice to VA: get the fire code people on your side...he, he, he!