It’s no surprise that the small streets I blogged about Friday are cheaper than the huge streets we have in the U.S. But just to refresh, here’s a Parisian street and one from my neighborhood in Salt Lake City, side-by-side:
Any person looking at these two spots will obviously know that the Salt Lake street costs more; it requires more asphalt, paint and labor to build and maintain. That’s basically the same point I made earlier this year after visiting Scotland, and I think it’s an important one. Americans often travel to Europe and find it charming, but I don’t think enough people connect that “charm” to real, economic differences.
But that’s not the only point I want to make here.
While the Salt Lake street is more expensive because it’s bigger, it’s also more expensive per capita because the surrounding area is less dense. That means my neighbors and I pay more for streets than our Parisian counterparts and we each have to shoulder a higher percentage of the overall cost because there are fewer of us.
The absolute cost and the relative burden are both higher.
This idea is similar to the point I made the other day: suburbs’ lower densities mean they will eventually have higher taxes to cover infrastructure costs. Fewer people means everyone pays more.
However in that post, I was just talking about low density. That’s one problem, but in many places in the U.S. it’s also coupled with this other issue of more infrastructure — e.g. bigger streets — to maintain.
This is the most fiscally irresponsible situation possible. It’s like going to the grocery store without enough money to buy the basics, then loading up your cart with piles and piles of extras. The math just won’t add up.