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« Road A or Road B? | Main | Friday News Digest »

Looking backward or forward?

Last week I published a brief question asking STB readers to give their impressions of two country roads. I promised my answer on Tuesday, but this spur-of-the-moment question and the responses we have gotten so far have intrigued me. Since Monday is typically our most widely read day of the week, I'd like to use it to solicit some more responses.

Which of these country roads would suggest prosperity to you and why?

Road A 

Road B 

I plan to publish my answer tomorrow.


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Reader Comments (10)

road   [rohd]
1. a long, narrow stretch with a smoothed or paved surface, made for traveling by motor vehicle, carriage, etc., between two or more points; street or highway.

I would not even classify "Road A" as a road at all. I would say it is more a path. A path to get off of a "Road" to get to a residence or some other remote destination.

Clearly, "Road B" suggests prosperity. Whoever built it must have had a lot of money to clear the necessary trees, grade the land, paint and lines, pave the surface and not to mention.....maintain it indefinitely.

August 5, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJustin B.

Road A suggests prosperity for Amish people or Marohn family and/or friends.

Road B suggests modern prosperity although it seems like there was a lot of clearing done. Was it too much?

If this is a trick question then Road A would suggest prosperity run amuck because all stimulus money dried out and there was none left to maintain it thus leaving it in the state that it is in.

August 5, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMike T.

On the other hand, Road B reads as a highway bypassing property.

Road A reads as a private sanctuary, a path or trail into someone's space, someone prosperous to the point that they can afford the luxury of a "wild" space.

I think this can be read either way.

August 5, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterGeorge Osner

There really is no absolute answer here, although I will post my thoughts next Tuesday. In the meantime, I think this discussion would benefit from more opinions.

I'd like hear from Jon and Ben, at a minimum.

August 5, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterCharles Marohn

Country Roads.... prosperity....

You make this seem like a trick question.

Pic A is clearly a private driveway, which would be a major pain in the neck to maneuver on a wet Spring day, but maintenance costs would be virtually nil. In the end... to suggest prosperity here seems preposterous.

Pic B is clearly a County or State Hwy. Notice the skid marks? Area is also probably well traveled by deer too.... why else would the skid marks be there? And the grass is probably cut there so drivers have a chance to notice the crossing deer. The only thing that raises doubt on the prosperity on this road is there is no traffic in the picture.

August 5, 2010 | Unregistered Commentergml4

Main Entry: pros·per·i·ty
Pronunciation: \prä-ˈsper-ə-tē\
Function: noun
Date: 13th century
: the condition of being successful or thriving; especially : economic well-being

Being that the word "prosperity" dates back to the 13th century, and obviously there were no roads like Road B in the 13th century, the answer is clearly Road A.

Actually, my first thought was along the lines of George Osner's answer - that Road A was leading into some secret retreat for a wealthy person while Road B is the road leading to the infamous Alaskan 'Bridge to Nowhere'.

August 5, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterBen Oleson

We received a Tweet on this subject from @gml4:

“@StrongTowns OK, I'll bite Pic B because of safer, quicker traveling, better drainage. It's a road I'm more likely to take.”

August 9, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterCharles Marohn

Neither road conveys prosperity to me, and my reasons are as follows:

A) Indicates people are pushing into roadless areas, and although the reasons may be recreational, it also could be basic survivoral as well. The road is not being maintained, which also suggests a lack of prosperity; maintenance would mitigate negative drainage issues, the ability for emergency vehicles to access remote reaches served by this road, etc.

B) This road indicates people are merely passing through and passing by this area. This is a pattern relatively common in rural America. As people had better access to transportation, they drove further to get goods and services, which left behind thousands of small towns and hundreds of thousands of small businesses that serve those towns. The road design also conveys a lack of local use. There are no shoulders or paths to encourage local bike and predestrian use, which further indicates it is for through traffic. Finally, the fact that the forest has been moved back and is being well-kept indicates fast moving traffic discouraged from slowing or stopping to enjoy the area. If this does not convey a lack of local prosperity, it certainly is intended to convey the impression there is nothing in this locale worth a driver's time or attention.

August 9, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterRod Proffitt

I appreciate the contribution of the word "suggest" in Chuck's question. The fact that Road B demands more resources for capital and maintenance than Road A does suggest that the community is prosperous. After all, why would a community choose to grade, pave and maintain a roadway like Road B if it wasn't worth it?

That's the trick part of the question. It may well not be worth it. But the photos don't illustrate the opportunity costs of investing resources in Road B. The image doesn't show those investments that a community does not make due to the budget demands of infrastructure built along the lines of Road B.

Conversely, Road A could depict a very low-volume roadway that is maintained minimally, to provide valuable resources to more productive uses.

Sorry for the dry answer!

August 9, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJon Commers

Both roads represent prosperity, but in much different ways. Road B would be the obvious depiction of prosperity. It's modern, well-kept, allows for high speeds, and moves people, resources, and products faster than Road A. Road A seems rustic, slow, cautionary, curious and secluded.

It also is the road less traveled. Therefore, that is why Road A represents prosperity. It is the new way of looking at prosperity--through the lens of something curious, new, and intriguing. Instead of being "outside of the box," it is "off the beaten path." In economic development and reaching for renewed prosperity, places must venture down the road less traveled if they are to achieve prosperity. It may not look like prosperity today; but come tomorrow, it could be a super-highway--not of asphalt or concrete, but of knowledge, information technology, investment, and entrepreneurship.

August 9, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterTyler B
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