Urban planning community

+ Reply to thread
Results 1 to 12 of 12

Thread: Compare and contrast urban vs. suburban

  1. #1
    Cyburbian zman's avatar
    Registered
    Apr 2004
    Location
    Colorado
    Posts
    9,011
    Blog entries
    2

    Compare and contrast urban vs. suburban

    I am actually looking for pro and con. I have been thinking a lot about the built environment and the overall landscape in which we live. Having a conversation with my fiance about urban vs. suburban life last night, a thought occurred to me that aside from my own opinions and experiences I know little fact. Therefore I thought to seek out the eternal wisdom of the Throbbing Brain for help. This may also serve as a forum for this topic where others may find things out.

    Disclaimer: References to books, online articles and previous threads welcome (and covertly desired). New ideas and conversation are encouraged. Discussion on rural living and its comparisons to urban and suburban is welcomed as well.
    You get all squeezed up inside/Like the days were carved in stone/You get all wired up inside/And it's bad to be alone

    You can go out, you can take a ride/And when you get out on your own/You get all smoothed out inside/And it's good to be alone
    -Peart

  2. #2
         
    Registered
    May 2006
    Location
    Chicago, Illinois
    Posts
    160
    Suburbs have the benefit of more space, less traffic and probably a safer environment to raise children. Some also have lower housing costs. They also have unforseen costs of more driving, especially in a sub division suburb, and because there is less tax money, some of the civil services might be lacking, i.e. their might be great schools but how's the library? Great Police but how long does it take for the fire department to get to your house? Suburbs do have serenity to them, set back away from too much traffic and street life. Also living in a smaller community means you have more say on laws and regulations which might be important to you. Suburbs tend to be more economically manageable as a whole, while cities you're dealing with the rise and fall of alot more budgets.

    The City on the other hand has the tax money of half a million, a million or more people to draw on to great better, overlapping systems. Search right and you can find very very low crime rate area's in the city, and though in those area's propeprty values will be higher, you most likely won't be driving as much because of the proximity of public transportation. Granted there is almost deffinately going to be more crime in a city, much of it happens in places you might go as a suburbanite anyway, such as the city center, and dealing it with it makes you a less nieve person. Because the city is more dense it can support Museums, Libraries, Theatre's and other things suburbs can't, and while you'll still have access to these, it will cost you more as you'll have to drive and park and all that jazz.

    There is the middleground of a first ring suburb, perhaps one that used to be it's own town outright, such as Oak Park, IL or St. Louis Park, MN. These have some of the qualities of suburbs and of cities as well. I am obviously a fan of the Urban side but even I from time to time can see the benefit of living in a suburb

  3. #3
    For most of history a suburb was only defined as a neighborhood on the edge of a larger city. It was functionally the same as the city itself, except with cheaper property prices. The idea of "suburban life" came around when urban planning models shifted to low density, use-separated land development patterns. There was then a sharp contrast between "suburbia", the new developments in the new pattern at the edge of the city, and the traditional city itself. As time progressed the old development pattern all but vanished, and you see cities such as Atlanta that are composed nearly entirely of the new pattern. You could say you live in the suburbs even though you are right in the middle of the city.

    People move to the suburbs because it's cheaper. The lifestyle pros and cons are dependent on the quality of the environment provided by the neighborhoods. You have great traditional neighborhoods and old slums, and you have clean suburbia and California-style slums.

  4. #4
    Cyburbian Luca's avatar
    Registered
    Mar 2005
    Location
    London, UK
    Posts
    1,150
    jaws is right abotu the difference betwen town center/suburb in the locations ense and urban/suburban in the urban form sense.

    I think msot of the alleged benefits of the suburban form are mythical in nature, but then again i grew up in a city center. I think properly conducted transct-based permissioning allows for both urban and (decent) suburban forms.

    I would also point out that seemingly minor details can have a major impact on urban form quality even within the same archetype.
    Life and death of great pattern languages

  5. #5
    Cyburbian jread's avatar
    Registered
    Nov 2004
    Location
    Austin, TX
    Posts
    739
    I've lived in all three environments (rural, urban and suburban), so I will give my opinions on them:

    Rural: I grew up in a very rural area outside of a town of 20,000. It was a good place to be a kid. I had acres of forest to play in (all part of our property), a pond for fishing, four-wheeler trails going for miles, a few good friends within biking distance down the road, low traffic, quiet at night, very safe. The bad part was that when I got old enough to want to explore outside of my area, there was nowhere to go. Teenagers had to resort to drugs just to have something to do. There was no economic opportunity... we all left once we finished highschool. The "small town mentality" also got old after awhile. Everything is very isolated, no "world view". Also, everyone knows everyone else. That means everyone knows your business and there's lots of gossip going on. This could easily ruin you in a small town... especially in places where your reputation matters such as work or school.

    Urban: I spent five years living in the urban core of Austin and enjoyed the hell out of it. I could walk to anything, I was a block from work. There was a lot going on... so many things to see and do. Everything was 24-hours. It was also, believe it or not, pretty safe there. The downsides were that there was no escape from the crowds once you got sick of being around people. Urban housing was usually apartments or condos, so you had people banging around above you, below you, on all sides of you, in the parking lot, in the hall outside your door, etc. Everything had a line, nothing had available parking. Most apartments were older and not energy-efficient at all. There wasn't much peace and quiet at all.... sirens constantly blaring up and down the streets, cars starting, etc. (though I got used to this ambient noise and it eventually became soothing).

    Suburban: I have lived in a suburban area within the city for nearly a year now. I had a very hard time adjusting to it at first, but I've found things that I like about it. It's nice to have my own lawn and garden, it's nice to have my own house that isn't attached to others, it's nice to have peace and quiet at night. The neighbors on my street all watch out for one another and don't mind walking over to feed the cats when you're on vacation, etc. There's an elderly woman across the street who lives alone and is always keeping an eye on everything. She says we've brought a lot of joy to her life as we are like grandkids to her. She feels "needed" because we ask her advice on gardening, etc. As for the things I don't like... well, there are many. I hate the HOA, I hate feeling like I'm being watched whenever I do something, I hate the commute to downtown (10-miles), etc. There is no character to our neighborhood, no funkiness. Everything is new and sterile. All the people are the same.

    All in all, I would rather go back to the central city. I was happiest there and I miss it dearly. Sometimes I wish I had a recording of street noise to play at night so I could go to sleep more easily. The silence of the suburban areas can make one lose their mind.
    "I don't suffer from insanity... I enjoy every single minute of it!"

  6. #6
    Cyburbian boiker's avatar
    Registered
    Dec 2001
    Location
    West Valley, AZ
    Posts
    3,894
    I do disagree to a degree that it is inherintly "safer" to raise children in suburbs. Counting auto and auto related accidents, the suburbs are closer to equally safe/dangerous to raise children in as the Cities. It's just danger in different forms.

    Urban positive: Generally, though not always, greater cultural diversity.

    Suburban postive: Your own plot of green land to do with what you will.

    Urban positive: Alternatives to auto transportation.

    Suburban positive: predictable, mass-market, one stop shopping.

    Urban positive: niche stores, unique retail discoveries.

    These are generalities. There will always be some cross-over or exceptions.
    Dude, I'm cheesing so hard right now.

  7. #7
         
    Registered
    May 2006
    Location
    Chicago, Illinois
    Posts
    160
    Quote Originally posted by jread
    Sometimes I wish I had a recording of street noise to play at night so I could go to sleep more easily. The silence of the suburban areas can make one lose their mind.
    Here Here to that. Moving from Chicago to school in Rural Central Minnesota, silence was so...quiet. Now back home I find myself staring at every lower flying airplane comming into Midway Airport

  8. #8
    Social patterns are an interesting indicator. (These ideas are really stripped down).

    Urbanites are more of a public entity: They have a well established sense of "We're all in this Together" because they have regular, clear interaction with large amounts of other people. With those people they share a dependence on public space and services.

    Also the role of government is very transparent in the city. Government services (parks, mass transit) and buildings (often pretty landmarks) are an integral part of the urban fabric. People in cities tend to be more liberal.

    Suburbanites are more of a private entity: The suburban attitude is more of a "Keeping up with the Jones's" because of the emphasis on property ownership and maintenance/enhancement of that property. Their day to day interactions with a public mass are usually reserved to highways where everyone is anonymously protected in their Ford body armor. Highways are a public space, but not viewed in that vein.

    Government services in the suburbs are vague at best, many suburbs don't even have a sewage system. Government offices are often out of the way or hidden among the uniformity of strip mall design. People in suburbs tend to be more conservative.

    So Much more to say, but going to cut it short (for now)

  9. #9
    Quote Originally posted by Big Green Scott
    Also the role of government is very transparent in the city. Government services (parks, mass transit) and buildings (often pretty landmarks) are an integral part of the urban fabric. People in cities tend to be more liberal.
    Just a correction, what you are referring to is not the government. A government is an entity that regulates how individuals must behave towards one another. It is not the government that provides parks and mass transit, it is the state and its corporate subdivisions.

  10. #10
         
    Registered
    May 2006
    Location
    Chicago, Illinois
    Posts
    160
    Quote Originally posted by jaws
    Just a correction, what you are referring to is not the government. A government is an entity that regulates how individuals must behave towards one another. It is not the government that provides parks and mass transit, it is the state and its corporate subdivisions.
    I think he is referring to government in a much broader sense, more like "The Man that you pay taxes to" not as in "The Man in Washington"

  11. #11
    Member Wulf9's avatar
    Registered
    May 2003
    Location
    Near the Geysers
    Posts
    922
    Quote Originally posted by zmanPLAN
    I am actually looking for pro and con. I have been thinking a lot about the built environment and the overall landscape in which we live. Having a conversation with my fiance about urban vs. suburban life last night, a thought occurred to me that aside from my own opinions and experiences I know little fact. Therefore I thought to seek out the eternal wisdom of the Throbbing Brain for help. This may also serve as a forum for this topic where others may find things out.
    Recent surveys of younger college educated people and where they would like to live. Interesting the change between single, married, and married with children.


  12. #12
    Cyburbian Luca's avatar
    Registered
    Mar 2005
    Location
    London, UK
    Posts
    1,150
    Quote Originally posted by Big Green Scott
    Social patterns are an interesting indicator. (These ideas are really stripped down).

    Urbanites are more of a public entity: They have a well established sense of "We're all in this Together" because they have regular, clear interaction with large amounts of other people. With those people they share a dependence on public space and services.

    Also the role of government is very transparent in the city. Government services (parks, mass transit) and buildings (often pretty landmarks) are an integral part of the urban fabric. People in cities tend to be more liberal.

    Suburbanites are more of a private entity: The suburban attitude is more of a "Keeping up with the Jones's" because of the emphasis on property ownership and maintenance/enhancement of that property. Their day to day interactions with a public mass are usually reserved to highways where everyone is anonymously protected in their Ford body armor. Highways are a public space, but not viewed in that vein.

    Government services in the suburbs are vague at best, many suburbs don't even have a sewage system. Government offices are often out of the way or hidden among the uniformity of strip mall design. People in suburbs tend to be more conservative.

    So Much more to say, but going to cut it short (for now)
    I think this rings very true, especially if to 'government' (which Jaws objected to) we substitute 'public/community'. Very interesting.

    The next question is what makes people more private-oriented or public-oriented.
    I would argue that the better run a city (you could use the term 'policed' in the US military sense of the word: orderly, safe, clean, operational, maintained, vigilated), the more people will be willing to engage at the 'public' level without the drawbacks. As taht breaks down, the balance of pros-cons runs in favor of mroe private/isolated/suburban forms.
    Life and death of great pattern languages

+ Reply to thread

More at Cyburbia

  1. Uses Urban and suburban chickens
    Land Use and Zoning
    Replies: 21
    Last post: 28 Aug 2013, 11:44 AM
  2. How does urban planning compare?
    Make No Small Plans
    Replies: 17
    Last post: 28 Jan 2011, 11:06 PM
  3. Replies: 3
    Last post: 29 Jan 2009, 5:56 PM
  4. A contrast between two buildings
    Design, Space, and Place
    Replies: 13
    Last post: 04 Feb 2006, 8:40 PM
  5. Urban v. suburban
    Design, Space, and Place
    Replies: 3
    Last post: 10 Jul 1999, 11:08 PM