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Thread: Will the increase in energy costs cause the death of the suburban fringe?

  1. #1
    Cyburbian boiker's avatar
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    Will the increase in energy costs cause the death of the suburban fringe?

    I've long held an urban planning belief that energy and transportation was the backbone of development and that any disruption to the finely tuned system could have dramatic consequences. With energy prices making record highs, those development patterns which depend on the system of the past 50 years are being most impacted.

    http://www.iht.com/articles/2008/06/...ess/exurbs.php

    The link is a great article which uses real data and a human interest story to express the seriousness of this disruption in our energy/transportation systems. The exurbs are failing. They are no longer desireable in a fiscal sense. The large house on a 1 acre pad no longer "pencils out".

    One item of debate in the article is whether the downturn in the exurbs will result in a significant "white flight" back to the city and create a new brand of slum on the fringe. One economist says it will create desolate slums in the exurbs; another says that they will just become "less desireable" but hesitates to predict dire consequences.

    I tend to agree with the former. The slums will move to the outside and wealth to the inner portions of urban areas. I don't feel the energy crisis is going away and our urban development patterns must adjust to accomodate the changes.

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  2. #2
    Cyburbian otterpop's avatar
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    Yesterday I attended a work session with the Montana Department of Revenue. At the end of the meeting the chief of DOR gave us a rundown on what they had learned thus far at previous work sessions in the state.

    When gas hit $3 a gallon, people began moving from Shepherd (a bedroom community outside of Billings) to neighborhoods around their workplace (hospitals, the university, etc.)

    When gas hit $3 a gallon, workers who could not afford the rents in Whitefish are moving to Columbia Falls, rather than Kalispell. Columbia Falls is a community that is closer to Whitefish but does not have the amenities of Kalispell.

    Even the Gallatin Valley, where people are a little richer, young middle-class workers are moving and building in Belgrade, a town near Bozeman, rather than in the suburbs.

    Also during the work session there was talk about a need in Helena for better public transportation. Soemthing you really were not hearing much talk about until gas hit $4 a gallon.

    I do not think higher gas prices will kill the suburb, but I think it may change people's attitudes, at least, in Montana of the dream of a house on one acre or more outside of town. The city of Helena will grow more. The city of East Helena will grow.

    I do think, and we are already seeing it, that the farther a house is from town and services, the harder it will be to sell.
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  3. #3
    Cyburbian Plan-it's avatar
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    Great topic!

    In the Atlanta area, it is all about being around the job centers. If you are near the urban core (Downtown, Midtown, Buckhead), Perimeter CID area, or Cumberland CID area you are golden because that is where the jobs are. Due to price sensitivity, people will be moving closer to where they work. The increase in transportation and energy costs are already having an impact, but I really think it is just the tip of the iceberg.

    The exurbs will not die out, but, their growth rate and financial stability will be impacted by these costs. Drive until you qualify will not longer be a real estate reality because it will be more difficult for people to rationalize moving farther out for lower priced housing if transportation costs offset the lower price being paid for land. This will result in either a reduction of exurban land cost, due to lower demand for exurban residential tracts; an increase in mass transit, to subsidize the cost of moving farther out by exurban counties and/or municipalities; or a realization that more local food will be required to be met by local supply as a way to off-set higher food prices that will result from higher transportation costs, thus a need to retain or return exurban lands to a more rural/agricultural setting.
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    Chairman of the bored Maister's avatar
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    I believe greatly increased energy costs would/will eventually bring about the fall of the suburban fringe....... provided no other means of personal transportation that can operate in as economical a manner as the gasoline-powered automobile currently (or perhaps until recently might be more accurate) is introduced as a replacement. The availability of safe and inexpensive hydrogen fueled vehicles, for example, would tend to perpetuate current land use patterns.

    Where one chooses to reside is largely a decision dictated by economic considerations. That said, the notion that a 2700 square-foot, two and a half bath single family home on a one acre lot at the end of a cul-de-sac being a desirable living location/environment is not going away any time soon. People will continue to desire this living arrangement and it will be interesting to see what sacrifices and exchanges our society and consumers will be willing to make in order to see it maintained. Expansive public transportation networks servicing the 'burbs, maybe?
    People will miss that it once meant something to be Southern or Midwestern. It doesn't mean much now, except for the climate. The question, “Where are you from?” doesn't lead to anything odd or interesting. They live somewhere near a Gap store, and what else do you need to know? - Garrison Keillor

  5. #5
    Cyburbian TexanOkie's avatar
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    I don't think it'll be the death of the fringe, there'll just be a demographic shift similar to cities in Latin America, where the inner neighborhoods are predominantly upper middle class or higher social status and the poor and working classes will be priced out to the fringes because demand is less. This will further the divide between the wealthy and impoverished, though. It depends on what you mean by "death"...

  6. #6
    Cyburbian boiker's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by TexanOkie View post
    . This will further the divide between the wealthy and impoverished, though. It depends on what you mean by "death"...
    I agree. I consider death to mean the [Channeling President Bush] "slumification" [/channeling off] of the exurbs. A pervasive condition of undersirability. They'll be populated portions of the urban metro area, but I have visions of an American version of 3rd world shanty-towns in my head.
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  7. #7
    Cyburbian Seabishop's avatar
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    At least the urban poor now are close to jobs, transit, infrastructure, etc. The exurban-shantytown scenario is pretty scary for lots of reasons.

    I'm not sure that scenario is necessarily the outcome though. If middle-class commuters want homes closer to their jobs, many of them can be housed in inner-ring suburbs which can accomodate extra density with a few changes to their zoning regs. Many modern job centers are in suburban locations anyway. Either that or the urban poor end up in the decaying inner-ring suburbs as the wealthy ride their bikes around the South Bronx.

    Rather than the poor being displaced to exurban locations, I wonder if a San Fransisco/Oakland split is more of a model. Some urban locations in a metro area become gentrified and others become the poor man's bedroom communities. It already is the case in a lot of areas.

    There will also always be a segment of society that can afford whatever fuel costs the world throws at them. The Hamptons won't be going away.

    I have to visit Kunstler's website he must be thrilled at Patio Man's pain at the gas pump.

  8. #8
    Cyburbian wahday's avatar
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    Another potential scenario I see is that the more well off remain in the suburban fringes, but leverage their influence (ie. tax base) to improve transit, retrofit "town centers" and other downtown-like mixed-use elements into the suburbs.

    Maybe the transit is BRT-style, maybe its rail (a much larger investment), maybe its van-pooling (or some combination of these). The retrofitting of the suburbs commerce-wise would be oriented toward ensuring people can more easily access food and other necessities without driving large distances. If any demographic has the potential to make these kinds of changes, its probably the folks that live there now (and I am thinking of well-off suburban sprawl here. We also have moderate to lower income sprawl on our West Side, which is another story altogether.

    I also think that, as Maister noted, the development of more efficient vehicles will likely support existing land use patterns rather than move us toward more dense living. And I think that would be unfortunate.

    I also read an article recently about San Francisco (http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/articl...MNJJ10NPSK.DTL) which noted that the city is seeing a lot of middle class professionals (including firemen, police and teachers) leaving the city because they cannot afford the housing costs. Median house value today is $790,000!! A household needs to make in excess of $196K to afford the mortgage on that.

    So, maybe we will also see the emergence of some super-wealthy urban cores ringed by less affluent (but still middle class) residents in the more fringe areas. Where the poor end up in this scenario, I don't know. Either in the city core in dilapidated neighborhoods, doing the dirty work of the wealthy urban centers, or further out than the middle class suburbanites, isolated form jobs and transit...

    It also strikes me that we are likely to see all kinds of population movements around the country as more and more seek the magical formula of lower housing costs and higher wages. So, we may get entire urban centers that emerge as "middle class cities" or some such, rather than each city following a similar pattern.

    Interesting topic!
    The purpose of life is a life of purpose

  9. #9
    There was a Brookings report a couple of months ago that found: center city population and job growth have been modest, upper income suburbs were experiencing large job growth but little population growth and lower income suburbs were experiencing large population growth but little job growth.

    Together with the new high cost of transport, this may mean that distant lower income suburbs are rather doomed and that inner cities having jobs and being more amenable to higher densities may benefit (and their poor may be at risk).

    A big question is: how long will high energy costs last?

  10. #10
    Cyburbian Streck's avatar
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    It appears to me that most of the posts on this subject are from people with vested interest in big cities.

    In our area, most of our cities are small towns, and never had traffic congestion problems or needed mass transit.

    Even around our state capitol, the suburbs are flourishing and growing while the inner city is decaying. Mass transit (busses) are under-utilized. The only new growth is government growth. New retail seeks the fringe suburban areas, and new open malls are well developed, have plenty of parking, are inviting and safe.

    The suburbs are self-supporting, with schools, fire, police, retail, malls, grocery stores, offices, parks, athletic events, entertainment, service stations and repair shops, fine dining, etc. This means the jobs to support all this are here, too.

    Much work today is done in the home on the internet and phone. The cost of gasoline is not a problem if you live in the suburbs within five miles of your work place, school, and grocery store. There is little need to go into the foreboding city anymore - where shops are small, selections are limited due to limited store and shelf space. And parking is hard to find. Mass transit is inconvenient, dirty, and dangerous.

    Crime is still a major problem in cities with personal danger of muggings, random acts of violence, panhandling, and car theft. Cities are not friendly places like in the suburbs, and it is depressing to see once fine neighborhoods decaying with lack of up-keep and painting. Also, the lack of landscaping and trees in the hardscape of gray city streets, walks and gutters. There is grafitti, trash, and vandalism, etc. all around you in the city. We (and many many others) moved (and are still moving) to get away from all that. There is very little to entice us back, but much the suburbs have to offer for living and raising a family. And I suspect that if more could afford it, they would be moving out of the city to the suburbs too. And I am not talking about the rich, I am talking about the poor wanting to move out of the city if they could.

    There are isolated areas in larger cities where business innovation and good planning have resulted in some nice spaces and good examples of what could be done. And I applaud them for that. But you have to admit that is rare and is not transforming whole cities. The suburbs are showing cities what the people want. It is up to cities to learn how to control their density, and be more like suburbs.

    We can learn from the suburbs.

  11. #11
    Cyburbian wahday's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Streck View post
    Crime is still a major problem in cities with personal danger of muggings, random acts of violence, panhandling, and car theft. Cities are not friendly places like in the suburbs, and it is depressing to see once fine neighborhoods decaying with lack of up-keep and painting. Also, the lack of landscaping and trees in the hardscape of gray city streets, walks and gutters. There is grafitti, trash, and vandalism, etc. all around you in the city. We (and many many others) moved (and are still moving) to get away from all that. There is very little to entice us back, but much the suburbs have to offer for living and raising a family. And I suspect that if more could afford it, they would be moving out of the city to the suburbs too. And I am not talking about the rich, I am talking about the poor wanting to move out of the city if they could.
    I think your point is well taken that many suburban areas function pretty well in terms of job base (not just retail stores, malls, and the municipal jobs like police and fire you mention, but also office parks, corporate headquarters, etc.). I think areas like what you describe are unlikely to be hit hard enough for people to flee. I do think improved transit (or at least an increase in ridership) may be in the cards for the future if prices remain high, but, yes, not all suburban areas are reliant on the urban core for survival. They are decentralized urbanity, if you will.

    This is not the case everywhere, though. Albuquerque's sprawl is textbook in many ways, but especially in the sense of having very few amenities like supermarkets, malls, or any other commerce (even schools, fire and police are barely adequate to keep pace with housing development). Here, you may see mono-use housing as far as the eye can see - no stores, few parks, etc. These areas tend to be more affordable than within the city (some of which are, in fact, first ring suburbs enveloped by the urban fabric over time) and so a lower-come-middle-class contingency (especially young families) have moved out that way in fairly large numbers over the last 7-10 years. Now, however, with no local job base, these folks are finding that the lower mortgage payment is offset by the high cost of commuting (and there is not transit option for many of these areas). These are the kinds of places that, in my opinion, need to be retrofitted with local job bases and commerce, or they will "die."

    I do take issue with your stereotype of "The City," though, In some ways, it is the counter to the ways that suburbs are characterized by proponents of more dense urban living (ie. not all suburbs fit the "sprawl" criteria and can be considered quite so hopeless), but still, your description does not reflect my own experiences and I think is a bit slanted toward the negative stereotypes about cities. But these attributes are not the only things that characterize urban centers.

    I have two children (7 and 2) and we moved from the fringe to the urban core last year. Actually, a year prior to that we rented downtown to see what it was like. I was very attached to our more rural life (1/2 acre, right by the river, very lush setting), but was literally bowled over by the improvement in my quality of life. I am much closer to my job, I can walk with the kids to the supermarket, to parks, stores, cafes, etc. or go for a nice bike ride. And I certainly don't live in a fancy part of town.

    My own neighborhood has plenty of vegetation (not the concrete jungle many envision). I walk alone every night. I have never been mugged or robbed. My neighborhood is much friendlier than where I moved from and where I grew up (also suburban - outside Philadelphia). One aspect I also value about urban life (and partly in the context of having children) is that the area is fairly representative of the diversity of the city as a whole (and maybe even the country, though we have very little representation of certain ethnic groups). We have young and old, singles and couples, renters and owners, gay and straight, families and no-kid households, professionals and blue collar, Spanish speakers and English speakers, black, white and brown, and so on. Its a great mix and it has taught me better how to be a good neighbor. I want my children to understand the range of types of people and economic circumstances that are found in our world. It makes us more compassionate, understanding, and appreciative of the opportunities we have. I think it makes us better people. I realize not everyone shares this opinion with regards to their kids, but I consider it an important facet of urban life.

    Anyway, that's my opinion on city life in Albuquerque. I think you make good points about "the suburbs" and I think perhaps we need to develop a more nuanced language to talk about such outlying areas in light of the kinds of things you mention (that many are, in fact, centers unto themselves and not necessarily reliant on the nearby urban core, for example).
    The purpose of life is a life of purpose

  12. #12
    Cyburbian boiker's avatar
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    wahday, you and I have the exact same philosphy on our ideal neighborhood. In fact, my last nieghborhood was that: ethniclly, age, and class diverse with easy access to some commercial areas.

    I also agree regarding the various types of suburbs and cities. Phoenix, AZ is a 9-5 downtown if I've ever seen one. The uni-directional intensity of the morning and evening commutes is unbelievable. The exurbs of this region will take a beating (and are currently taking one) as energy prices increase. Many small and mid-sized rust belt cities are also subject to this phenomon.
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  13. #13
    Cyburbian Streck's avatar
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    Why would anyone in their right mind leave cities to live in suburbs and have to face the daily grind of fighting traffic every morning and every night? What a waste of time away from one's home and family - commuting.

    Why put up with mass transit commutes, waiting for the next train, bus, subway, etc. fighting the crowds, checking your pockets and belongings, looking for a clean seat? Trying not to touch someone or offend them by an innocent look. Not understanding what they are saying (about you - of course).

    Putting up with human or trash odors, or stale air at least. Walking past trash, spittle, gum, and who knows what that you have to track through and bring home on the bottom of your shoes.

    And we convince ourselves that paying a little more and a little more for increased taxes for mass transit is a worthwhile thing and certainly makes us "good citizens" even though commuter fares are going up due to gas price increases.

    And we would be paying even more if we commuted by car (and have to pay an exorbitant fee just to park the thing all day)!


    Can our cities be that bad that we choose to commute instead of living in cities???

    Rhetorical question.


    But do we really want to go back to living in the city in a place that is too small for us, and make our children attend schools that don't work so we don't have to commute?

    If only our cities could be more like the suburbs.

    Planners - there is your challenge.

  14. #14
    Cyburbian boiker's avatar
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    At the risk of taking this thread completely off topic (I encourage any continuation of this discussion to be started in a new thread or have these entries moved), I feel that inasmuch as you are generalizing that Cities are not good places to live, you generalize that suburbs are great places to live. In reality there exists a yin and a yang in both subrubs and cities.

    I think you misunderstood the intent of this thread. It wasn't to say that Cities are better than suburbs, but to express concern (or lack of it) for the continued health of the suburban fringe-- a fringe dominated by expansive tracts of single family homes and significant commutes to employment centers. That's a condition that exists in a whole lot more places around the country than the self-sustaining suburb.

    The cheap-energy "car-scale" style of development has resulted in a course-grained zoning map. Large blobs of commercial and residential exist with good distance between the two. Even more concentrated and removed are the various office parks which are in a seperate area. This is car driving utopia. It is incredible how good this development system is when cheap energy is involved. It's not going anywhere soon (mpg improvements and some satisfactory alternative fuels may come about), but I do have a fear that price increases could outpace technology development which could result in a transition in our urban growth patterns we haven't seen in 60 years.

    The high-density City development style that you loathe is more suited to deal with high energy costs and a lack of independent mobility. It might be dirty, it might be crime infested, it might be ugly, but it might be the preferred choice in an era of high-energy costs. Also consider the fact that the dirty, downtrodden city may be reinvigorated, cleaned-up, made safer, and beautified by the potential influx of middle-class dollars that want nothing else but to improve their corner of the world.
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  15. #15
    Cyburbian CJC's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Streck View post
    Why would anyone in their right mind leave cities to live in suburbs and have to face the daily grind of fighting traffic every morning and every night? What a waste of time away from one's home and family - commuting.

    Why put up with mass transit commutes, waiting for the next train, bus, subway, etc. fighting the crowds, checking your pockets and belongings, looking for a clean seat? Trying not to touch someone or offend them by an innocent look. Not understanding what they are saying (about you - of course).

    Putting up with human or trash odors, or stale air at least. Walking past trash, spittle, gum, and who knows what that you have to track through and bring home on the bottom of your shoes.

    And we convince ourselves that paying a little more and a little more for increased taxes for mass transit is a worthwhile thing and certainly makes us "good citizens" even though commuter fares are going up due to gas price increases.

    And we would be paying even more if we commuted by car (and have to pay an exorbitant fee just to park the thing all day)!


    Can our cities be that bad that we choose to commute instead of living in cities???

    Rhetorical question.


    But do we really want to go back to living in the city in a place that is too small for us, and make our children attend schools that don't work so we don't have to commute?

    If only our cities could be more like the suburbs.

    Planners - there is your challenge.
    Streck, you're completely ignoring many, many places in America. Not every place has cities that have emptied. Not every place has suburbs that are great. In California (where more than 1 in 9 Americans live), all of the "central cities" are at all-time population highs. The commuter exurbs exist only because living in the central cities is soooo expensive (and restrictions on infill have been placed by government and/or nimbys).

    Private enterprise determines where jobs are located. In spite of the nice fairy tale about people working from home - it isn't happening on a large scale - even in places like Silicon Valley (where you would think it could happen first). Companies still clamor over one another to have offices there. Why? Because to compete for the best talent - you have to be near the best talent. Entrepreneurs need to be near capital sources - and for entrepreneurs looking at building economy-changing companies, that means being near venture capital firms, not the local bank. Venture capital firms expect these businesses to be close by, so that they can check in on their investment. At the same time, employees want to be in an area where they can grow - whether it be with the company they are currently with, or with another company across the street that happens to be in the same industry.

    As boiker said above, the "self-sustaining" suburb is fine. But in many places in America with strong economic and population growth, that suburb does not exist (or is full). At the same time, the "declining" central city also does not exist (because they are at all-time population highs and still growing - at higher housing prices than the suburbs in many cases). There are two options for continued growth in these metros - densification or commuter exurbs. I would think in those areas that densification would be better than what we've had the past few years - an explosion in commuter exurbs with 100 mile commutes. Those commutes will now become harder and harder to justify as energy costs continue to rise.
    Last edited by CJC; 26 Jun 2008 at 2:05 PM.
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  16. #16
    Cyburbian
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    Eh. I have a foot in the UK as well as in the US, and in Britain (as in Europe) gas prices have long been very, very high, but that hasn't prevented upper middle class families from leaving the urban cores for the countryside. In fact, in the last decade there's been a steady outmigration of affluent households from London, cashing out on the skyrocking London real estate prices, into the shires and further afield. Some commute daily by car and pay the stiff petrol prices. Others take the train. Plenty tele-commute. The countryside Britain, akin to the suburban fringe of the US, is a largely affluent area while the poor remain concentrated in the urban cores and certain self-sufficient suburban towns.

    Gas prices may be $4 a gallon, but that translates into $60 a tank for my car and I fill up once a week. I can afford that. There's plenty (read, tens of millions) of households in suburbia who may grumble but who can certainly afford the gas prices.

    If gas prices remain high, I imagine we'll see that instead of becoming a ghetto for poor (how would the poor ever afford to live in the suburbs in the first place, far removed from basic services and social services and jobs, and dependent on expensive gas?), the outer suburbs would become more the realm of the affluent, while the mere middle classes will retrench to places closer to their jobs, usually in self-sufficient suburban edge cities, rather than the urban core. The very outer suburbs, already more rural than suburban, will revert to being purely rural areas.

  17. #17
    Cyburbian Jeff's avatar
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    I used to work for a big time homebuilder, and I always thought at some point these developments were going to become the slums.

    Albeit, I thought this was going to be a result of people simply getting tired of driving, not $5.00 gasoline.

  18. #18
    Cyburbian
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    The high energy costs have definitely changed our mobility patterns. For instance here in Austin i've noticed alot more people riding scooters, mopeds, and bicycles and there has also been an increase bus ridership. So that's been real nice

    However much of the downtown development consits of condos/lofts which go for 400k, 500k, even 700k, which has the effect of pricing out long-time residents in surrounding neighborhoods. In a sense its a reversion back to the city center for those who can afford to do so, while others become squeezed out.

    Additionally energy costs in the coming years will drop slighty as companies, cities, and governments begin to change out vehicles, build greener, and look for alternative sources for energy. The suburbs will become self-sufficient since many cities are developing TOD's and regional rail lines, and over time increases in vehicle mpg will allow people to still commute...its the exurbs i see falling out of favor in all of this.


  19. #19

    Suburban fringe Dissapearing?

    I would actually argue just the reverse. It isn't the centralization of industry that is going to result, it will be the decentralization. We've been talking for years about how tele-commuting is tha wave of the future but it just hasn't taking off in most industries for most workers (many freelancers or professionals who travel a lot do this, but most computer-monkey prols are still relegated to the dreaded commute). First it starts with a push for the 4 day work week (You can find dozens with a search.):

    Arkansas
    Alabama
    Ohio

    Then you start getting people doing work that fifth day, and it develops from there. Our firm has been talking about being more lenient about people working from home more often. The problem with mass transit is that it doesn't work for everyone. We have rail in Dallas, but my daily travel is 20-30 minutes east/west. To take the rail (which my company gives us a paid pass to ride), I could probably catch the nearest station about 15 minutes away, take a ride nearly downtown (well beyond where I actually work) to catch another line at the first intersection and travel back out. In the end, I will have spent 45min to an hour to get to work because of the hub and spoke rail design. Rail works in places like New York and Paris because they have lateral movement.

    The other option is the further decentralization of industry from large downtowns to regional centers. Dallas is rife with these. The Legacy area of Plano, TX is home to the headquarters for Frito Lay, EDS, JcPennys and many others. Very close by you find enormous planned communities of intended to house their workers (the Austin Ranch development contains several thousand apartments and townhomes either built or under construction and is within 3.5 miles).

    There are a lot of possibilities how this may play out. In the end though, I think Americans are going to find ways to continue to value home location at the sacrifice of their work location.

    ===================
    Jonathan
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  20. #20
    Cyburbian wahday's avatar
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    Here is another article, this one from the NYTimes, about the impact of high energy costs on suburbs and exurbs:

    http://www.nytimes.com/2008/06/25/bu...+prices&st=nyt

    Some choice quotes:
    Across the nation, the realization is taking hold that rising energy prices are less a momentary blip than a change with lasting consequences. The shift to costlier fuel is threatening to slow the decades-old migration away from cities, while exacerbating the housing downturn by diminishing the appeal of larger homes set far from urban jobs.

    In Atlanta, Philadelphia, San Francisco and Minneapolis, homes beyond the urban core have been falling in value faster than those within, according to an analysis by Moody’s Economy.com.
    ...
    More than three-fourths of prospective home buyers are now more inclined to live in an urban area because of fuel prices, according to a recent survey of 903 real estate agents with Coldwell Banker, the national brokerage firm.
    ...
    Basic household arithmetic appears to be furthering the trend: In 2003, the average suburban household spent $1,422 a year on gasoline, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. By April of this year — when gas prices were about $3.60 a gallon— the same household was spending $3,196 a year, more than doubling consumption in dollar terms in less than five years.
    The kinds of places depicted in the photos (mostly outside of Denver) typify the kinds of fringe development that, I think, is most likely to be impacted (and which looks very much like what we have around here). These are places that are still very much reliant on the nearby urban core for economic survival. I think this kind of development is very typical of suburban/exurban development in the American West, whereas older suburbs in other areas may have developed more of a local economy that could support employment of local residents (and make goods and services more readily available).

    Nonetheless, this article notes that areas outside of urban centers like Atlanta, Minneapolis, Philadelphia and San Francisco have also seen home values dropping faster than in the urban core. This says to me that a) many folks living in these more self-sustaining economies (with office parks municipal employment, etc.) are still commuting to the city center every day (meaning there may be employment nearby, but they are not working there) and/or b) there are other factors of concern that are motivating people to move closer in (could be the mortgage crisis, could be the high cost of heating and cooling large homes, etc.).

    Anyway, more food for thought.
    The purpose of life is a life of purpose

  21. #21
    Dan Staley's avatar
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    Some change, not wholesale change though, IMHO

    I'm with PennPlanner - a certain fraction will move closer to work, many though will grumble and pay the price for gas and cut something else out, like eating out two fewer times a week - this will affect businesses and some may move/close.

    I lived in Germany in the '80s and what PennPlanner describes was the case there too - but the cities/burgs were totally walkable and you could walk to buy food/go to the gasthaus.

    For the fraction that will move closer to work, presumably those will in more dense neighborhoods, and it is our responsibility to ensure that they are designed well - context-sensitive streets, good architecture, proximate open spaces, etc.

  22. #22
    Cyburbian mgk920's avatar
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    There is also a discussion on this, with more article links, in the Economic and Community Development forvm ('Will today's McMansions be tomorrow's slums?')

    Mike

  23. #23
    Cyburbian Streck's avatar
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    Old World and New World cities with lack of adequate city planning and pollution controls:

    http://www.popsci.com/environment/ga...irtiest-cities

    Suburban "sprawl" is not the problem.

  24. #24
    Cyburbian
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    Oy.

    Basically, it depends on the community in question. The more close-by jobs, conveniences, and room for growth/infill a community has, the better its odds of continuing to grow. How well these do also depends on safety/crime rates, school quality, cost of living, community strength (i.e. more people knowing and getting along with their neighbors, and more people organizing to get things done, tends to make for more attractive and healthy communities over the long run, after the first-generation surge of popularity fades) and the effectiveness and responsiveness of local government.

    Communities where a majority of these factors are favorable, or are made more favorable, will keep growing, regardless of whether they are high, medium, or low density, city, suburb, or small town. These communities will find ways to adjust, and will demand and eventually get the bulk of road and mass transit expansions. I for one expect a modest increase in big-city population, a larger shift from outer suburbs into small cities and older small towns, an increase in both telecommuting and regional rail systems, and a more varied and balanced range of densities across a given region's communities.

    Communities that fail to create jobs and improve quality of life, whatever their density, will struggle, and those that are close enough to other communities with jobs will recieve the poor who are squeezed out of healthier, more popular places. Outer fringe areas with few jobs within five miles will probably thin out and become more exclusive, but not likely disappear.

    Streck: I have said it before, I will say it again. One size does not fit all Never has, never will. Every virtue you cite for suburbs, and every ill you cite against cities, occurs in both cities and burbs, and small towns, across the country. Every one of these factors can be, and has been changed over time, for better as well as for worse, in both cities and suburbs across the country. None of these factors, not one, is inherently dependent on density. All are dependent mainly on how the people there handle the community's (and their own) affairs.

  25. #25
    Cyburbian Streck's avatar
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    Thanks, B.

    I wish more on this site recognized that. It seems like the great vast majority here and in current planning circles think that suburban lifestyle and planning is somehow inferior, because it is constantly referred to as "Sprawl."

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