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Cities With the Most Highway Miles: a “Who’s Who” of Decay

11:04 AM EDT on April 20, 2012

This is fascinating. Using data from the FHWA, the esteemed Patrick Kennedy at Network blog Walkable Dallas Fort Worth has cobbled together a list of the American cities with the highest number of estimated highway lane miles per capita.

See if you notice any similarities (this is per 1,000 people):

1. Kansas City - 1.262
2. St Louis - 1.070
3. Houston - .822
4. Cleveland - .816
5. Columbus - .779
6. San Antonio - .759
7. Jacksonville - .745
8. Providence - .742
9. Pittsburgh - .731
10. Baltimore - .724
11. DFW - .719

"It's like a who's who of decaying or soon to decay cities," says Kennedy.

Now let's look at Kennedy's list of the ten cities with the least highway miles per capita:

1. Chicago
2. Tampa/St.Pete - wouldn't want too many octogenarians out on the road anyway.
3. Miami - surprising. No worries, MIA will rectify this as soon as they expand I-95 to 40 lanes (this was really once an idea).
4. NYC/Newark
5. Portland
6. Sacramento
7. Phoenix
8. LA
9. Philly
10. DC

It's not a perfect sync, and the data is rough around the edges, but in general the cities in the second group seem to be faring much better than the first group. Think of the policy implications this raises. It points to a strategy that would be nearly the opposite of the way our state DOT-led transportation system favors highway expansion over smaller grid-level interventions and transit improvements.

The scary thing is a lot of politicians who wield power over the cities in the first list (ahem, John Kasich) still call highway building "economic development." What are these cities going to do when they lose more people and all of a sudden federal money isn't there for repairs?

Elsewhere on the Network today: Free Public Transit reports that car makers, especially those working on electric vehicles, continue to rake in subsidies. And Greater Greater Washington analyzes a local pedestrian safety campaign and finds it lacking.

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