20+ Million Plays of Livable Streets Vids!
Browse Terms of Use

Strong Towns’ Chuck Marohn: Why Suburban Growth Is a Ponzi Scheme

Chuck Marohn cofounded the non-profit Strong Towns in 2009. Since then he has steadily built an audience for his message about the financial folly of car-centric planning and growth. The suburban development pattern that has prevailed since the end of World War II has resulted in what Marohn calls "the growth Ponzi scheme" -- a system that isn't viable in the long run because it cannot bring in enough revenue to cover its costs.

Last year, interest in the Strong Towns message surged and Marohn, in high demand, traveled to towns and cities all over the country delivering "curbside chats" about the need to build places differently. In this Streetfilm we provide an overview of his thinking about street design, land use, and transportation funding. For more Chuck Marohn, visit the Strong Towns blog and check out their podcast.

One of my favorite pieces of commentary from Chuck is this video walk-through of a "diverging diamond" interchange in Springfield, Missouri. As usual he pulls no punches, and he delivers the critique with a biting sense of humor.

Embed Code

Embed This on Your Site

  • Artie Bonney

    Way to go Chuck! I started listening to his podcasts last year and I really think he is onto something. I hope "stroad" makes it into the webster dictionary because more talk needs to be had about that type of design.

  • Jared R

    Chuck is a great guy. He has crafted what I believe is the best way to discuss the economic and financial pitfalls of auto-based and suburban zoning-based development. It is a clear and concise way of presenting the issue. Most people I discuss this with have never considered the long-term financial viability of infrastructure. They seem to have always thought that roads were just there and that there was no real tax implications related to roads' existence. It's wild.

  • James

    It's exciting to see the 15 trolley behind him. #Phillyrepresent

  • Alex Oconnor

    I agree with much of Mr Marohn critique. I find it curious however that he rails against suburban development yet lives in semi-rural sprawl himself. Google maps of the general area he lives : https://www.google.com/maps/preview#!q=Baxter%2C+Minn&data=!1m4!1m3!1d132277!2d-94.272959!3d46.3978438!2m1!1e3!4m11!1m10!2i10!4m8!1m3!1d191990!2d-87.7319639!3d41.8337329!3m2!1i1600!2i775!4f13.1&fid=7

    I myself despise sprawl; one way I do not contribute to it is by living on an urban neighhborhood in Chicago with great access to PT so I almost never need to drive and the population density is between 30-35,000 / square mile.

    Actions or inactions are louder than critiques. It is quite easy to critique everyone else; it is hypocrisy if you yourself engage in the critiques behavior.

    If I am mistaken as to his place of residence I do apologize.

  • Faith Kumon

    Chuck and his wife built a house in suburban Baxter long before he realized the problems with the suburban development pattern. He considered selling at one point but couldn't find a buyer. His critique is not just of others, but of himself: http://www.strongtowns.org/journal/2013/7/22/second-life-cycle-blues.html

  • http://www.csbikes.org Robert Guico

    His monetary views seem... odd. (The idea that munis shouldn't borrow is in theory a good one, but then you get into the "debt is bad" argument pretty quickly and Apple, among others, just issued more debt just because it's so cheap right now).

    But I agree with him on pretty much everything else... which pretty much boils down to "make the roads for the people, not the cars, when there are people."

  • Freyr Gunnar

    After we hit peak oil, urban sprawl will be history.


  • Robert

    It made it into a dictionary- the urban dictionary. YAY!