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St. Louis, MO Transit Editorial Points to Mapping Decline as a Warning

Many city governments in the United States are making serious cuts to their budgets, and concerned citizens worry about the effect these cuts will have on critical services such as mass transit. An editorial in today's edition of, the online home of St. Louis Post-Dispatch, argues against the major reductions in service scheduled for St. Louis' Metro mass transit system, and points to Colin Gordon's Mapping Decline: St. Louis and the Fate of the American City as a source for historic illustrations of urban policy gone wrong.

A book called Mapping Decline has created a considerable amount of buzz among serious students of public policy in St. Louis.

University of Iowa history professor Colin Gordon took a map of St. Louis and superimposed layer upon layer of municipal boundaries, zoning ordinances, housing restrictions and redevelopment projects as they accumulated and as the region sprawled over the last 100 years.

Many of these official actions were designed to enforce racial segregation or to protect economic prerogatives and prevent economic mobility and diversity. These changes show up graphically on Mr. Gordon's maps, as do census data revealing massive white flight. Wide swaths of once-stable communities and neighborhoods have become virtual ghost towns or repositories of grinding poverty.

The final maps reveal a mosaic of foolish choices and bitter consequences.

Metro's map of service cuts — should the cuts be allowed to stand — would take its place among the most egregious of St. Louis' historic blunders.

Read the complete editorial at