What roads beget
Once a road is built into an unprotected open space, then many financially rewarding things can be done (see The Value of Roads). This creates an indirect reward system: road → business activity → financial rewards. A road by itself, unless users are willing to pay directly for its use, has little value; business activities that depend on roads make most roads valuable and worth building. Among these business activities are: residential and commercial development; oil and gas extraction; mining; logging; materials processing; manufacturing; wholesale distribution; retail sales; service support; waste processing; and waste disposal. Many of these developments are more prosperous if they are well connected, by roads, to other developments and businesses. Roads beget roads, until space is filled.
What roads destroy the most space?
All roads diminish space, but some roads diminish it more than others. Placement of a road is what makes the difference.
Space is all about distance from permanent human-built stuff, the built environment (see What is Space?). Roads that cause the greatest reduction, over the greatest area, in distance to the built environment are the greatest space destroyers. Roads that penetrate to the cores or hearts of open spaces are the greatest space destroyers.These would be the roads that penetrate to places where distance to the built environment is greatest. These are the centers, cores, or hearts of open spaces. In contrast, a road of the same length built along the edge of an open space—in other words, nearly adjacent to other roads or parts of the built environment—causes comparatively little space reduction.
Differences in space destruction by a road or other development can be calculated (see Measuring Space I). This means that developments can be designed specifically to minimize the loss of space. Measurements of space, space loss, and protected space are helpful planning tools and essential space management tools.
If roads inevitably lead to space filling, then disincentives to road building are also disincentives to space filling.
There are choices for disincentives to road building. One is a strong planning environment. This has the disadvantage of pitting a government planning agency against developers. Because developers often have extensive financial resources, this route can ultimately lead to gutting of planning agencies through political action, and loss of enforceable planning.
A better option is economic disincentives that are demonstrably equitable. If the cost of development induced space loss in one place is tied to protection of space in another nearby place, then developers cannot argue that fees or other disincentives are arbitrary or capricious. This is the system that we propose and recommend.
What about other space invaders?
Roads are not alone as space invaders. Railroads, pipelines, canals, and long distance electric transmission lines also fragment open spaces. The more than four million miles (6.5 million kilometers) of roads in the United States dwarf the 140,000 miles (225,000 kilometers) of railroads, 200,000 miles of long distance electric transmission lines, and so on. Roads are the dominant invader.
|What is Space?
Space requires both area and distance.
|Space is a Nonrenewable Resource
Space loss is essentially irreversible, so space inexorably shrinks.
|Roads Versus Space
New roads, and other things built near roads, always reduce space. Who wins and who loses?
|The Value of Roads
Roads perform valuable services, so people will pay for them.
|The Tilted Incentive System
Much more money is available for road construction than for space preservation.
|Back to: Open Space—Our Vanishing Resource
Overview of the forces behind space loss.