Big sky or big sprawl?
Montana, the state that rejected speed limits, is
heading toward a lot more traffic. According to a recent report,
the number of miles traveled by car in Montana grew twice as fast
as population from 1970 to 1990 and is projected to double again by
2015. With 1.7 cars per licensed driver, Montana residents already
own more vehicles than anywhere else in the nation. Although the
state is vast, Montana's population isn't as far-flung as you'd
think: 75 percent of the population lives in or near the 10 largest
towns. Still, Montanans are driving more miles than ever, and most
of their driving is local, causing congestion on central roadways.
The Big Sky state also boasts abundant parking lots; capital
Helena, for example, has almost 150,000 spots, nearly six for each
resident of the city. The report by the Helena-based Alternative
Energy Resources Organization concentrates more on describing
current land-use patterns that spur sprawl than imagining
solutions. Still, it's worth knowing that since 1960, Helena has
spread an acre for each new resident and is still growing. A
15-page summary of the report, Big Sky or Big Sprawl: What
Transportation and Land-Use Decisions Cost Montana Communities, is
available for $4; the full report costs $15. Contact AERO at 25 S.
Ewing, Suite 214, Helena, MT 59601 (406/443-7272) or e-mail