The Option of Urbanism talks about the “favored quarter”, the pattern in almost every city’s suburban development where most of the wealthy white people settled in certain parts of the region, leading to mall developers and employers wanting to locate there, leading to more highways there, making property values rise and more wealthy white people, malls, and jobs locating there.

Meanwhile, less wealthy and/or minority people could only afford to live in other parts of the region, forcing them to endure longer commutes to work. More driving meant paying more gas taxes, which were used to finance more freeways usually in the favored quarter.

In effect, Leinberger argues, the poor are subsidizing the rich in the economics of sprawl. This is part of what Michael Replogle of Environmental Defense was saying at the New Partners conference when he told the audience that using revenue from congestion-priced roads to fund more lanes and more highways exacerbates inequality, while using the revenue to create transit reduces inequality.

In his review of The Option of Urbanism, Rob Goodspeed links to some great maps of income distribution around cities that illustrates the “favored quarter” quite starkly. All of these cities have clear wedges of wealth (red), and often just as clear wedges of poverty (blue).

David Alpert is Founder and President of Greater Greater Washington and Executive Director of DC Sustainable Transportation (DCST). He worked as a Product Manager for Google for six years and has lived in the Boston, San Francisco, and New York metro areas in addition to Washington, DC. He lives with his wife and two children in Dupont Circle. Unless otherwise noted, opinions in his GGWash posts are his and not the official views of GGWash or DCST.