How To Fund America’s Overstretched Infrastructure – with Rick Rybeck and Charles Marohn

In episode 6 of the Market Urbanism podcast, we talk about the overstretched nature of American infrastructure, and what mechanisms could be used to better fund it. In segment 1, we discuss this so-called “growth Ponzi Scheme” with Charles Marohn, founder of Strong Towns. In segment 2, we discuss how it might be addressed through value capture mechanisms, with Rick Rybeck, founder of the land-use consultancy Just Economics.

Show Notes

1:23 Scott Beyer begins his editorial about Charles Marohn

3:41 Martha Ekdahl gives her take on the Strong Towns message

7:19 Antonio Grana mentions the mass federal subsidy that funded the interstate highway

9:38 Beyer asks – “does all sprawl not pay for itself?”

13:24 beginning of interview with Charles Marohn

17:01 Grana asks him what the right growth pattern is for financial self-sustainability. He says “incremental” growth that adds density gradually over time.

19:40 Beyer asks him who should get to decide the right level of incrementalism

22:50 Ekdahl asks how incrementalism would pass politically in cities with a lot of Nimbyism. His answer:

I’ve dealt a lot in my planning work with people we would call Nimbys who don’t want to see any change. And what they’ll also point to is – “I don’t want that 8-story condo in my neighborhood.” And really, I kind of get that. There’s some rational basis to that…I can understand the human reaction to not wanting that abrupt level of change. I think what’s unreasonable for people to expect is that there’d be no change….[but] if we say ‘every neighborhood should be able to adapt and evolve to the next increment’, that respects the people that are there now, it doesn’t overwhelm them, it doesn’t disrespect their investment and their place and sense of community, but it also doesn’t disrespect the future. It allows places to change and adapt and reinvent themselves.

25:00 Beyer reads a write-in question from Boston, asking why so many public officials still don’t understand the Strong Towns message

26:37 Beyer reads a write-in question from Tory Gattis, of the Center for Opportunity Urbanism, challenging the idea that sprawl doesn’t pay for itself

30:13 Grana asks what the public response to the Strong Towns message is when he speaks to audiences

33:04 start of interview with Rick Rybeck

37:02 Beyer asks Rybeck to respond to Chuck Marohn’s growth ponzi scheme theory

40:55 Beyer asks him whether he thinks sprawl is financially viable

43:47 Beyer reads a write-in question asking how land value taxes worked in Pennsylvania

46:22 hosts respond to Rybeck interview