More topics local candidates don’t talk about: Shifting from building MORE infrastructure to making BETTER use of what we already have.


As usual, Marohn locates the center of the target. One important question voters should be asking the Gahanites: Exactly how are we going to pay future maintenance costs for all these bright, shiny (and in so many instances, unnecessary) objects?

The Strong Towns Approach to Public Investment, by Charles Marohn (Strong Towns)

We’re done building infrastructure. The idea that any city in North America will, in the future, have appreciably more roads or streets, more sidewalks and curbs, more pipes or pumps or valves or meters, is absurd. Some may add a bit here or there, but for the most part we’re done. What we’ve built is what we’ve got. That’s it.

In fact, I suspect that many cities will have less infrastructure in a decade than they do now. Two decades from now, I suspect contraction of infrastructure will be a common and shared experience across our cities.

This means that the task of city-building must shift dramatically, from building more to making better use of what we already have. For over seven decades, we’ve culturally viewed expansion as our pathway to success. Now we must develop strategies for thickening up our places, for going back and wringing more return out of the trillions in existing investment.

An Obsession with Maintenance
In my book, Strong Towns: A Bottom-Up Revolution to Rebuild American Prosperity, I outline how local governments must use two complementary – but very different – approaches for making capital investments: maintenance and little bets …