Infrastructure Spending - Top Content

John Pattison
John Pattison
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American Jobs Plan Series

"Part 1: The American Jobs Plan Will Make Our Infrastructure Crisis Worse"

There is nothing in the plan that is going to substantively change the trajectory of the North American development pattern.

"Part 2: The Half-Truth on Infrastructure at the Heart of the American Jobs Plan"

The story has been that we don’t spend enough on infrastructure. But what’s the whole truth?

"Part 3: When it Comes to Infrastructure, the American Jobs Plan is Business as Usual"

The Plan pretends to dig us out of the infrastructure hole we've dug ourselves into. In reality, it's making the hole bigger.

"Part 4: The American Jobs Plan Delays Necessary Infrastructure Reform"

The top-down approach puts systems ahead of people and politics ahead of place—which is not what we need if we want to actually fix our infrastructure.

"Part 5: How Local Leaders Should Adapt to the American Jobs Plan"

Do no harm: put your people and their needs at the heart of your approach. Here’s how.


[Note: This series was also compiled into a free e-book.]


"The Republican Roadmap on Infrastructure (It's Not a Real Plan)"

The Republican Roadmap isn't a real alternative to the American Jobs Plan, and even if it was, we must stop talking about our national infrastructure strategy in terms of “Democratic versus Republican” approaches.

My Journey from Free Market Ideologue to Strong Towns Advocate

"Part 1: Introduction"

From Chuck Marohn: "I’ve had to reconcile my foundational belief in markets with my experiences working with cities. This has been a painful process."

"Part 2: The Pequot Lakes Bypass"

From Chuck Marohn: "Early in my career, I helped plan a highway bypass for a small town that I was sure would generate a positive return on investment in the form of economic growth. The only problem? The actual numbers we calculated told a different story."

"Part 3: What Is Infrastructure?"

In very simple terms, infrastructure is a platform for expanding wealth. If infrastructure doesn’t expand our wealth enough to justify its construction, it’s not an investment. It’s merely a form of consumptive spending.

"Part 4: Analyzing the Cul-De-Sac"

In a suburban development pattern, the cul-de-sac is the gravy. It’s the cherry on top. It should be the most profitable part of the system, the place with the most tax base for the least amount of cost. If that’s not true, then something is terribly wrong with our model of growth.

"Part 5: Commercial Development"

If local governments are going to lose money on residential development, then they have to make it up on commercial development. That’s a risky business model, one that doesn’t pencil out.

"Part 6: Organic Markets in the Traditional City"

A real market urbanism looks like an organic system, where as many distortions as possible are removed and we’re left with irrational, fallible humans transacting with each other as freely as possible. There is good reason to correlate that with the traditional development pattern.

"Part 7: The Nature of Markets"

There is no such thing as a truly free market; the market exists within a system of rules and incentives. And in America today, that system privileges stability and efficiency at the federal level, at the expense of making our cities and towns fragile.

"Just Say No"

If you want to be a Strong Town, your community must redirect its energy to things that will make it financially better off and more prosperous.

"What Should My City Do About Our Infrastructure Backlog?"

If your community has a huge backlog of unfunded infrastructure maintenance—and it’s the rare one that doesn’t—there are some basic and obvious steps that need to be taken.

"Why Does Infrastructure Cost So Much?"

Why does infrastructure cost so much to build in the U.S.? The fundamental reasons aren’t technical. We’ve structured our postwar economy to use overspending on infrastructure as a way to induce short-term growth.

"Is a Street an Asset?"

Current accounting practices do not bear any relation to the future cash flow or the actual financial health of the city. When cities take on obligations, they should be properly accounted for as liabilities, not assets.

"Why Neither Left Nor Right Speaks Coherently About Infrastructure" (Podcast)

When it comes to infrastructure spending, politicians on both ends of the political spectrum get it wrong—but in different ways.

"The Highest Return on Investment for your City is not Where you Think"

Federal infrastructure spending is a huge, expensive gamble that we already know doesn’t pay off. The Strong Towns proposal for a path forward is cheap, and it offers high upside potential with low downside potential.

"A Dam Mess"

Stop obsessing over building new infrastructure and start putting your best minds in charge of maintenance.

"A Letter to POTUS on Infrastructure"

Small maintenance projects focusing on below ground infrastructure in old, established neighborhoods have the greatest potential for positive returns.

"Poor Neighborhoods Make the Best Investments"

We can make low-risk, high-returning investments in our cities while improving the quality of life for people, particularly those who are not benefiting from the current approach.

"The Real Reason Your City Has No Money"

Problems have solutions. Predicaments have outcomes. We're in a predicament.

"Five Ways Federal Infrastructure Spending Makes Cities Poorer"

A federal infrastructure bill is going to make your city poorer in the long run. Here's how.

"Five Low Cost Ideas to Make Your City Wealthier"

Improving a city doesn't take a lot of money. It just takes courage.

"Infrastructure Spending for Dummies"

It is very likely that, within the next 12 to 24 months, your community is going to get some money for infrastructure. What are you going to do with it?

"If Strong Towns Is Right and Cities Are Insolvent, Why Do So Many Seem to Be Doing So Well?"

The unproductive use of infrastructure has put most cities, even those that are superficially prosperous, in a position where they won’t be able to afford to maintain what they’ve built. The signs of this crisis are everywhere—if you’re willing to look.

"The More We Grow, the Poorer We Become"

Local governments can’t take on more and more promises without generating enough wealth to meet those obligations—not without a reckoning. We need a radical revolution in how we plan, manage, and inhabit our cities, counties, and neighborhoods. We need a Strong Towns approach.


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