Monday, September 8, 2008

How many miles of road do you owe?

California budget deadlock still continues. As of September 8, there is no sign of 2008-2009 budget moving forward.

I come from a small country with little resources, so I am always impressed by what California has. It is very rich in almost everything: human resources, industry/innovative technology, agriculture, land, mineral resources (including oil) and so on. I feel like water is the only missing piece from the picture. So it is hard for me to believe that California has to suffer from such a serious budget problem.

But I am not here to criticize the politics... I will leave the discussion to the experts. I am simply curious to know why.

Well, as a politics-amateur, one of the things I notice as an outsider is that there is massive investments on infrastructure because everything is large here. People depend on cars for transportation which depend on massive highway system that is FREE. By the same token, extensive scale of urban sprawl requires massive investments to establish and maintain water system, electrical grid, sewage, roads, parking, commercial complex and so forth..... which could be redundant if the community was twice denser.

This is unproven theory and I am just wondering: if what is true to California is true to US as a whole, which also suffers from budget deficit despite its richness in various resources....
Does the life of an American need more infrastructure investment (cost) compared to other countries? Here is some figures:

This is the statistics of the land devoted to road and parking. Each country has different area and population, but it is noticeable when you look at "area per capita" and "area per motor vehicle". The figures in North America and other countries are significantly different.
A British only has to maintain 72 meters2 for road/parking whereas an American has to do 573 meter2.
A Japanese car only has to maintain 184 meters2 for road/parking whereas an American vehicle has to do 745 meter2. (Plus, highway is not FREE in Japan! )

Establishing and maintaining infrastructure takes money. More infrastructure means more spending from tax revenues. If spending is too much, fiscal budget will be in red. Obviously not all the taxes are spent on public infrastructure, but this seems to be an interesting topic to investigate, especially in relation to smart growth.

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