If you live on the typical suburban cul-de-sac, as I do (that's mine in the photo above), snow events like the one we experienced today drive home another expensive consequence of suburban non-planning: The intricate, time-and-fuel-consuming snowplow ballet that is required in order to clear the huge circle of non-permeable surface created by cul-de-sacs.
It's a tedious job, to say the least. Trucks designed and engineered to generally go forward have their gears mashed back and forth as the driver struggles to push piles of snow off a skating rink-sized area. In the time it takes for a plow to clear a single cul-de-sac street, the same crew or driver could have finished six streets of the traditional pattern.
If you've looked closely at the City of Franklin's 2010 budget -- and have followed deliberations as the common council struggles to keep municipal services reasonably effective without significantly raising property taxes -- you are aware that fuel, vehicle and crew expenditures for snow removal are already necessarily cut to the bone.
These are cuts you may have already noticed in the past couple of years as your street didn't seem to get cleared as quickly. Or, as in my case, your mailbox may have been clipped as drivers hurry to cover more ground with fewer resources.
So - want to venture a guess as to exactly how many cul-de-sacs the city of Franklin's Highway/Parks Department is responsible for clearing, salting and de-icing each and every time it snows?
A couple dozen - 22?
DOUBLE that last guess. And add another 11.
That's 211 times that city trucks and city crews have to do a job that takes six times as long as it would take in a traditional, grid neighborhood.
Six times as much fuel.
Six times as many man-hours.
Six times as much mechanical wear-and-tear (in reality, much, much more as the trucks must shift into reverse repeatedly on each and every cul-de-sac).
Multiplied by 211.
In 2009 the city budgeted for $40,000 in overtime funds. Expenditures as of 7/30/09 were already $53,973.14, with $70,100 estimated as the year-end total. The 2010 budget requests $58,262.
The Highway Department notes that they face a 42% increase in the cost of road salt for 2010 as well.
Cross your fingers.
Still think sprawl and poor design doesn't cost you money?
See also: The Cul-de-sac Safety Myth