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Thread: Freeway to nowhere

  1. #1
    Cyburbian Plus
    Jun 2003

    Freeway to nowhere

    Headline and Article from the San Francisco Chronicle:

    Secondary Headline: Roads of convenience translate to roads of monotony

    As long as you stay near the freeway, you could be anywhere or nowhere.

    Today, however, you can take any suburban off-ramp in the country -- whether you're in Bangor or Barstow, Boise or Birmingham -- and you'll probably find an identical grouping of corporate-franchised mini-marts, fast-food joints and chain motels.

    A bit farther on you'll come to the inevitable strip mall with its Wal-Mart, Subway and Starbucks, all duded up in a false-front interpretation of the local architectural style: a fringe of red tile in California, a pediment in New England or a few fake shutters down South.

    What's so bad about this? Nothing, if our aim is a totally homogenous nation in which every growing town -- whether north, south, east, or west -- looks exactly the same as its neighbor. This outcome would suit the corporate mega-chains just fine, since it's much cheaper to parcel out the same stores, shops and restaurants over and over, tossing in a few cliched regional details to please the local planning department.

  2. #2
    Member Wulf9's avatar
    May 2003
    Near the Geysers
    We yearn for an international "small town." In a small town, you know everyone. You know which restaurants are clean, which businesses are honest, which stores carry nice merchandise. Of course, the downside is that you only have a few of any kind of store, and merchandise choice is limited.

    The fast food, strip malls, and chain retailers give us all the same predictability and lack of choice as living in a small town a century ago, but now it's nationwide.

  3. #3
    Interesting interpretation. I don't know if it rings true for me.

    In the mythical mid-century small town, we knew the places because we knew the people. When I reach through my drivers side window to the bag of Taco Bell that Anand Patel hands to me, I don't feel much personal connection with him. Certainly no small-town vibe of inclusiveness in any kind of a community. I don't know Anand, and chain food culture seems pretty intent on keeping things that way. True, I do know that the Burrito Supreme is going to taste the same in Jersey City as it would in Metairie, but the connection ends at the level of the consumable.

  4. #4
    Jan 2005
    Ann Arbor,Michigan
    Living in Michigan where the freeway rules it is disappointing to see communities destroyed by the power of moving traffic. The development that creeps up at each interchange is nothing more than poor planning and "economic development" for the communities these roads reach.

    Ludington, Michigan is a beautiful harbor town on the shores of Lake Michigan. Where US-31 ends at the edge of the city rampant sprawl begins destroying the character of the city. Visitors to the city have to drive through blighted and vacant strip commercial development before they even reach the historic downtown. The cities outdated zoning ordinances and crave for economic development when the freeway finally reached this isolated community brought this homogenous development. You truly could be anywhere in America.

    Today, it is only the natural features and local landmarks that give any impression of where one is located. Even those become less and less and we quickly alter our natural environment to suit the built environment we are trying to create.

    Our highways are an expression of our culture with its lack of community values and morals. I choose the road less traveled so that I can enjoy each community for the culture and heritage they maintain and represent and NOT what corporate America can bring to every expressway interchange.

  5. #5
    Cyburbian Emeritus Bear Up North's avatar
    May 2003
    Northwestern Ohio

    Even In The Upper Peninsula

    The Upper Peninsula of Michigan is one (1) of those places where you can still drive into a small town that has no "retail strip", park in the central business district, walk to a small tavern populated by interesting and colorful locals, buy some groceries at a small mom and pop store that still has wooden floors, and grab a six (6) for the road from a dingy little store that sells cigars, dirty men's magazines, nightcrawlers, and colde beer.

    Unfortunately, most travelers from the lower part of Michigan (trolls) and travelers from Wisconsin, Indiana, Ohio, and Illinois, roar through these magnificent little towns and don't stop until they get to "the strip". The Upper Penninsula has these strips, too.....such as US 41 between Marquette, Negaunee, and Ishpeming. Wal-Mart, Applebee's, etc.....these are the places that the travelers stop. They are comfortable in these places.....probably because they DO look the same.

    The YooPee doesn't need a freeway to look like the rest of America.

    BTW.....there is a freeway in the eastern portion of the Upper Peninsula. The second to the last exit (and the exit most people get off of) feeds ride into a giant strip area....aka Wal-Mart, etc.

    This Bear likes places like Naubinway (wooden floor grocery, neat little smoked fish store), Ean's Corners (combination bologna/cheeseburger...yum, at the local tavern), and Trout Lake (railroad tracks next to the tavern, old Soo Line diesel power, great big bar cheeseburgers, yum).

    Bear Getting Off The Freeway

  6. #6
    Cyburbian RandomPlanner's avatar
    Mar 2005
    Missing up north from the low country
    So, then the question becomes - what are we, as planners, really doing to prevent the homogenization of our communities???
    I agree wholeheartedly with this article. I want to stop my towns from looking like Anywhere, USA. But what am I really doing? And what can we really do if the Jo Schmoes of the world are happy with this Generica we are creating??
    How do I know you are who you think you are?

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