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Thread: The front yard

  1. #51
    Cyburbian Linda_D's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Pragmatic Idealist View post
    Setbacks should be context-sensitive.

    For example, deep setbacks for skyscrapers create towers in a park and no walkability.

    Options come in the form of a variety of contexts with their own respective typologies, including among them setbacks.
    A deep set back on a high-rise building can provide a public gathering space, especially for public/commercial buildings. It can also provide for a pick up/drop off zone for deliveries/services/tenants, especially for residential buildings. For all buildings, it can provide green space. It depends upon how that setback is used.

    While you advocate "walkability", you obviously oppose people walking an extra 300 feet to cross in front of a building built on a plaza or an extra 200 feet to get to the front door. This is not a long row of large highrises built back 200 feet from the sidewalk but one. It seems to me that for all your talk of "diversity", you really don't want diversity at all but want every building to conform to what you consider "appropriate".

    Moreover, I fail to see what "walkability" has to do with "ensur[ing] economic sustainability". I would think that constructing a high-rise building so that most interior spaces could be easily reconfigured to meet changing demand over several decades of use would make that building much more "economically sustainable" than making sure it conformed to some theorist's version of an urban Never-Never Land. This would be especially true if said high-rise was located in a suburban setting.

  2. #52
    Cyburbian
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    Quote Originally posted by Linda_D View post
    A deep set back on a high-rise building can provide a public gathering space, especially for public/commercial buildings. It can also provide for a pick up/drop off zone for deliveries/services/tenants, especially for residential buildings. For all buildings, it can provide green space. It depends upon how that setback is used.

    While you advocate "walkability", you obviously oppose people walking an extra 300 feet to cross in front of a building built on a plaza or an extra 200 feet to get to the front door. This is not a long row of large highrises built back 200 feet from the sidewalk but one. It seems to me that for all your talk of "diversity", you really don't want diversity at all but want every building to conform to what you consider "appropriate".

    Moreover, I fail to see what "walkability" has to do with "ensur[ing] economic sustainability". I would think that constructing a high-rise building so that most interior spaces could be easily reconfigured to meet changing demand over several decades of use would make that building much more "economically sustainable" than making sure it conformed to some theorist's version of an urban Never-Never Land. This would be especially true if said high-rise was located in a suburban setting.
    You fail to see quite a bit.

    Plazas are not setbacks.

  3. #53
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    Quote Originally posted by DetroitPlanner View post
    Are you really comparing american front yards to Le Corbousier style development? I suggest that you study Mies Van der Rhoe. If this area was left context sensitive it would be full of unused warehouses, rotted homes.
    If I was comparing them, I wouldn't have used the term, "context-sensitive."

    Le Corbusier was attempting to attach the setbacks appropriate for a country estate to skyscrapers in the middle of a big city.

    I live in an old neighborhood that was built with beautiful and elegant transitions from the urban to the rural. The houses on the edges are huge estates that exist on large lots with common yards and no sidewalks, as well as sporadic use of curbs and a country club near an historic resort. Walking towards the commercial street, the setbacks become more shallow and picket fences and other defensible space starts to abut sidewalks.

    On the commercial street, there are zero setbacks along with taller mixed-use buildings.

    This way of building cities existed for centuries until the proponents of car-dependency started tearing everything apart. They were the "theorists", and the results speak for themselves.

    I don't know whom Linda_D is trying to convince because the users of Cyburbia ought to be a relatively-sophisticated audience that knows the history, as well as the current problems.

  4. #54
    Cyburbian Linda_D's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Pragmatic Idealist View post
    You fail to see quite a bit.

    Plazas are not setbacks.
    I said they could be used as plazas or gathering places. A setback isn't a park, either, but it could be used as that, too. What you want is rigidly defined definitions that conform to your ideology.

  5. #55
    Cyburbian
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    Dude,

    You have to factor in the car in today's design and in how people live their lives. 75 years ago the rich people in the large estates in your neighborhood might have been the only people with cars and who drove everywhere. Today we're much more egalitarian and most Americans have cars. The car just ain't going away. It has revolutionized the design of urban planning and how our urban environments are built. You are not going to be a successful planner if you want to ignore the role cars play in our lives and the choices it's given to Americans in what/where/how they want to live.


    Quote Originally posted by Pragmatic Idealist View post
    If I was comparing them, I wouldn't have used the term, "context-sensitive."

    Le Corbusier was attempting to attach the setbacks appropriate for a country estate to skyscrapers in the middle of a big city.

    I live in an old neighborhood that was built with beautiful and elegant transitions from the urban to the rural. The houses on the edges are huge estates that exist on large lots with common yards and no sidewalks, as well as sporadic use of curbs and a country club near an historic resort. Walking towards the commercial street, the setbacks become more shallow and picket fences and other defensible space starts to abut sidewalks.

    On the commercial street, there are zero setbacks along with taller mixed-use buildings.

    This way of building cities existed for centuries until the proponents of car-dependency started tearing everything apart. They were the "theorists", and the results speak for themselves.

    I don't know whom Linda_D is trying to convince because the users of Cyburbia ought to be a relatively-sophisticated audience that knows the history, as well as the current problems.

  6. #56
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    Quote Originally posted by PennPlanner View post
    Dude,

    You have to factor in the car in today's design and in how people live their lives. 75 years ago the rich people in the large estates in your neighborhood might have been the only people with cars and who drove everywhere. Today we're much more egalitarian and most Americans have cars. The car just ain't going away. It has revolutionized the design of urban planning and how our urban environments are built. You are not going to be a successful planner if you want to ignore the role cars play in our lives and the choices it's given to Americans in what/where/how they want to live.
    Ahhh.... So, we have another person telling us "what/where/how" "Americans" "want" to live. The irony is that his or her location reads Dubai, a place built, in part, by telling Americans what, where, and how they should structure their entire civilization around the oil that the Middle East sells.

    "Successful planners" don't presume to know what that mythical monolith of Americans want, and "successful planners" certainly don't listen to the incessant drumbeat of the oil, automobile, and highway lobbies. Instead, "successful planners" try to prevent themselves from forcing citizens to own and use cars.

    Owning and using a car should be an optional transportation choice, one of many. If doing so isn't, then planners are, and have been, complicit in enslaving Americans to these moneyed interests.
    Last edited by Pragmatic Idealist; 25 May 2011 at 7:00 AM.

  7. #57
    Cyburbian
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    The problem with most high-rise setbacks isn’t that they exist, but that they are generally covered with grass and pavement, and a few stray trees. Grass and pavement provide very little in the way of visual appeal or character. They create a negative space that is bland and uninviting. In my experience people who live in apartment buildings generally don’t use their setback areas because they are so uninviting and have no amenities that would attract them, other than parking their car. Setback areas are generally wasted space.

    So what do you replace the grass and pavement with? If you’re building a new development you could get the same number of people in buildings a quarter the height if they were spread out over the entire site more efficiently. In most cases this would create a “better” (read: more urban or more walkable) environment. If you’re working with an existing building these spaces can often provide opportunities for intensification. I have also seen a case where the traditional grass and parking lot setback has been replaced with a wood lot creating a building complex surrounded by nature.

  8. #58
    There are a lot of unresolved design and planning issues, but the overwhelming evidence is that large setbacks for buildings does not work in terms of walkability and street scapes. There may be a few examples one may find where they are okay (but okay for passers by as well as building occupants?) but most dont work and should be avoided.

    Its hard to think of a more settled issue.

  9. #59
    Cyburbian DetroitPlanner's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Pragmatic Idealist View post
    If I was comparing them, I wouldn't have used the term, "context-sensitive."

    Le Corbusier was attempting to attach the setbacks appropriate for a country estate to skyscrapers in the middle of a big city.

    I live in an old neighborhood that was built with beautiful and elegant transitions from the urban to the rural. The houses on the edges are huge estates that exist on large lots with common yards and no sidewalks, as well as sporadic use of curbs and a country club near an historic resort. Walking towards the commercial street, the setbacks become more shallow and picket fences and other defensible space starts to abut sidewalks.

    On the commercial street, there are zero setbacks along with taller mixed-use buildings.

    This way of building cities existed for centuries until the proponents of car-dependency started tearing everything apart. They were the "theorists", and the results speak for themselves.

    I don't know whom Linda_D is trying to convince because the users of Cyburbia ought to be a relatively-sophisticated audience that knows the history, as well as the current problems.
    Sounds to me like you're extolling life in one of Jacob Riis' tennaments.

  10. #60
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    Americans have demonstrated over the past 100 years where they want to live: a single family dwelling in a low density area. That is why we have the urban land form we have today - the sprawling suburbs. Sure, there were incentives that encouraged the growth of suburbia but most of these incentives were provided by politicians....elected directly by American voters.

    That isn't to say we can't have something besides the suburban model and a sensible planner would certainly want to help provide options and choices, but a sensible planner is also thoughtful of the context of the community he/she works in and what the local residents prefer to have next door to them. Planners are, for the most part, public servants. Even private planning firms work very closely with the public sphere. Don't be like the communist era planners in Poland who decided it was a sensible, pragmatic decision to build 10-story apartment towers in the middle of tiny villages.

    Dubai, by the way, is quite high density and much more compact than American cities. Most people live in apartments and the new freehold compounds villa plots are tiny to the point of almost non-existent (3,000 sqft house on a 6,000 sqft lot). The wealth that built Dubai wasn't oil (the Emirate has no real oil wealth) but speculative investment from all over the world.


    Quote Originally posted by Pragmatic Idealist View post
    Ahhh.... So, we have another person telling us "what/where/how" "Americans" "want" to live. The irony is that his or her location reads Dubai, a place built, in part, by telling Americans what, where, and how they should structure their entire civilization around the oil that the Middle East sells.

    "Successful planners" don't presume to know what that mythical monolith of Americans want, and "successful planners" certainly don't listen to the incessant drumbeat of the oil, automobile, and highway lobbies. Instead, "successful planners" try to prevent themselves from forcing citizens to own and use cars.

    Owning and using a car should be an optional transportation choice, one of many. If doing so isn't, then planners are, and have been, complicit in enslaving Americans to these moneyed interests.

  11. #61
    The most common housing type in the US is 1500 - 2,000 sf houses on 6000 sf lots,

    Housing is not a winner take all like a presidential election so that if a majority (or in the case of at least 2 presidents since 1990, a less than majority) wants to live in single family housing we all must live like that. Housing is more like the cell phone market, some want Iphones, some want droids, some want anything that can just make phone calls.

    Note that the most expensive housing in this country is higher density in safe neighborhoods. This is evidence that the supply of this type of housing is not meeting the demand.

  12. #62
    Cyburbian
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    Quote Originally posted by PennPlanner View post
    Americans have demonstrated over the past 100 years where they want to live: a single family dwelling in a low density area. That is why we have the urban land form we have today - the sprawling suburbs. Sure, there were incentives that encouraged the growth of suburbia but most of these incentives were provided by politicians....elected directly by American voters.
    Unintended consequences of Euclidean zoning notwithstanding, this built environment form is a function and result of wealth and extra disposable income. As our country declines, this form cannot be supported at past scales.

    As public servants, we have to allow for more choices in built environment form to give more options.

  13. #63
    Cyburbian
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    You are assuming:

    A. That there's a real and permanent decline.

    B. That this "decline" will impact the urban form (please note that the UK has declined in relative power and wealth in the past century but still has a much larger urban and suburban footprint than in 1900).

    C. That modern technological innovations will not allow the current American land use patterns to continue either by reducing the cost of the land use patterns or presenting, say, alternative energy forms. While oil prices are high, cars are much more efficient these days, after all.

    I never play the doom and gloom game. The all-powerful market will be much more instrumental in the redevelopment of our urban areas than any government policies, but the planners should certainly be on the standby to help figure out how to solve problems, not invent them where they don't exist.

    Quote Originally posted by ColoGI View post
    Unintended consequences of Euclidean zoning notwithstanding, this built environment form is a function and result of wealth and extra disposable income. As our country declines, this form cannot be supported at past scales.

    As public servants, we have to allow for more choices in built environment form to give more options.

  14. #64
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    Quote Originally posted by PennPlanner View post
    You are assuming:

    A. That there's a real and permanent decline.

    B. That this "decline" will impact the urban form ...

    C. That modern technological innovations...
    I never play the doom and gloom game. The all-powerful market will be much more instrumental in the redevelopment of our urban areas than any government policies, but the planners should certainly be on the standby to help figure out how to solve problems, not invent them where they don't exist.
    All empires and societies decline on our planet. That is how it works. All declines impact societies. And thanks for the standard technological-market fix meme.

  15. #65
    Cyburbian wahday's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by PennPlanner View post
    Americans have demonstrated over the past 100 years where they want to live: a single family dwelling in a low density area. That is why we have the urban land form we have today - the sprawling suburbs. Sure, there were incentives that encouraged the growth of suburbia but most of these incentives were provided by politicians....elected directly by American voters.
    I've always wondered about the "this is what people are buying, so it must be what they are demanding" argument. Is it not possible that "what people want" is a direct reflection what is currently available within their financial means? That is not the same as saying that its what people would design for themselves given the chance. Its hard to "want" something that doesn't exist because you can't conceive of it. So, it seems that a more accurate statement would be to say that "of the choices available, people seem to want this." Even so, people make housing decisions for myriad reasons, many of which are beyond the actual form or style of the home - cost, proximity to work, highways, rail lines, schools, etc. Its certainly possible in my mind that many people feel "well, this place isn't perfect, but it fits the needs we have right now in our life" This is not the same as saying that people demanded something.

    I say all of this from my own house-buying experiences and reflecting on why we made the choices we did. For us, the housing type was secondary and locale was primary. The house is cool - a hundred years old and well built - but it also is a bit small for us and was a bit more pricey than I would have liked. But after taking into account all the factors (including what was for sale at a given time, proximity to work and school and stores) it seemed like the best choice available. If there was another model of housing available, or certain forms were NOT available, I wonder how that would have impacted my perception of what we "wanted."
    The purpose of life is a life of purpose

  16. #66
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    Quote Originally posted by wahday View post
    I've always wondered about the "this is what people are buying, so it must be what they are demanding" argument. Is it not possible that "what people want" is a direct reflection what is currently available within their financial means?
    Right. That is an old talking point, refuted when you see the multiple surveys that show many folks actually prefer some other model other than the slapped-up McSuburb, usu a walkable, SG-type neighborhood.

  17. #67
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    My bad. The typical freehold compound villa has a very high FAR. Think 1,500 sqft footprint on a 3,000 sqft lot. Even large villas on the Palm Jumeirah may have a 3,000 sqft footprint on a 5,000 sqft lot.

    Quote Originally posted by Gotta Speakup View post
    The most common housing type in the US is 1500 - 2,000 sf houses on 6000 sf lots,

    Housing is not a winner take all like a presidential election so that if a majority (or in the case of at least 2 presidents since 1990, a less than majority) wants to live in single family housing we all must live like that. Housing is more like the cell phone market, some want Iphones, some want droids, some want anything that can just make phone calls.

    Note that the most expensive housing in this country is higher density in safe neighborhoods. This is evidence that the supply of this type of housing is not meeting the demand.

  18. #68
    Cyburbian
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    Uh - but they keep buying the slapped up McSuburb, no? And besides, what makes you think the McSuburb can't be walkable? Nothing's preventing you from getting out of your car and walking, no?

    Sure, if you were to ask people if they like pretty images of walkable neighborhoods, most would say yes. Few people are going to argue against requirements that you put in sidewalks. But however you dress up the suburbia with new form requirements most people are still going to get into a car and *drive* somewhere. I grew up in a very walkable older neighborhood in Baltimore, laid out by none other than Olmstead's firm, with a core community business center, schools, libraries, shops, restaurants and other amenities within walking distances.

    Guess what, most people still drove. Many of my classmates were driven all of .25 miles to school by their parents. Most of the residents work elsewhere, not just five miles away in downtown Baltimore but a hour away in Washington or elswhere in the suburbs. Most of the shopping is elsewhere. People drove.

    The car is not going to disappear. The car offers people the most flexbile range of choices for our options and lifestyles as possible. You can design as many TOD developments as you want but even those will have to factor in the car. The TOD stations along DC are filled with commuters who hop off the metro and then get into a car and drive elsewhere. I do not forsee that the car will be come a rare luxury within our lifetime. Petrol prices are very high in Europe, much higher than in the US, but the Europeans have put up with it by driving much more fuel efficient cars and spending less on other budgetary items. Americans will do the same.

    Quote Originally posted by ColoGI View post
    Right. That is an old talking point, refuted when you see the multiple surveys that show many folks actually prefer some other model other than the slapped-up McSuburb, usu a walkable, SG-type neighborhood.

  19. #69
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    Europe has been in a "decline" since the height of its imperial powers in 1900.

    It's still a quite rich and lovely place to live with much higher incomes and QOL than any rising economic powers in Asia outside Japan. People who think the US is going to turn into a poor second world country are sadly mistaken.

    Quote Originally posted by ColoGI View post
    All empires and societies decline on our planet. That is how it works. All declines impact societies. And thanks for the standard technological-market fix meme.

  20. #70
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    Quote Originally posted by PennPlanner View post
    Uh - but they keep buying the slapped up McSuburb, no?
    We've been over this a billion times here. That is all that can be built under most land-use code. The SG developments are bid up like crazy to obtain them and hold their value better. This is obvious. And basic..


    Quote Originally posted by PennPlanner View post
    And besides, what makes you think the McSuburb can't be walkable? Nothing's preventing you from getting out of your car and walking, no?
    Nobody said McSuburbs can;t have a sidewalk or a bike lane or trails. The basic, most elementary difference: Destination. Walking to somewhere, not in a circle til the dog craps. That's what it means. To somewhere. To a destination.


    Quote Originally posted by PennPlanner View post
    The car is not going to disappear. The car offers people the most flexbile range of choices for our options and lifestyles as possible. You can design as many TOD developments as you want but even those will have to factor in the car. The TOD stations along DC are filled with commuters who hop off the metro and then get into a car and drive elsewhere. I do not forsee that the car will be come a rare luxury within our lifetime. Petrol prices are very high in Europe, much higher than in the US, but the Europeans have put up with it by driving much more fuel efficient cars and spending less on other budgetary items. Americans will do the same.
    Thanks for the car commercial!

  21. #71
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    Personally I donít have a problem with large lot detached suburban developments. Iíve designed quite a few in my time. The problem is it costs a LOT of money to live like that: the cost of building and maintaining roads and pipes, the cost of providing soft services to low density areas, the loss of wilderness and farmland. If people had to pay the full cost of living on a Ĺ acre estate lot most people would not be able to afford it, let alone a 3,000 sq.ft. lot - yet many Americans do somehow.

    The reason they can afford it is two-fold. 1. Traditionally the full cost of suburban development isnít paid for by suburban home dwellers, it is paid for by the entire community, and therefore the urban dwellers are subsidizing the suburban dwellers; and 2. Most people go into huge amounts of debt in order to live on their own piece of land in the American dreamscape. That is one of the major reasons for the debt crisis we are now in.

    I find many people feel threatened when planners and urban designers talk about creating more vertical communities and fewer horizontal communities, as if the big bad government was going to come in with a bulldozer, level every suburban home and put up dozens of apartment building with a Starbucks on the ground floor. That obviously isnít the case. 95% of American suburbs will look exactly the same in 50 years as they do now. Itís only a very small percentage of built-up areas that will ever evolve into urban neighbourhoods. The move to build more urban-type places is NOT a threat to suburbia Ė it is a re-balancing of urban forms so that people will have the choice of living in suburbia or and urban environment.

  22. #72
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    I would offer one challenge to follow up on the notion that large-lot developments are pretty much all people want - if we are so confident that the vast majority of Americans absolutely want a large-lot single-family development with large setbacks, let's lift zoning and HOA controls like minimum lot sizes and maximum densities because they are unnecessary. Why, after all, would developers build something people don't want? Just keep basic health and safety requirements - no rendering plants next to residential.

    Then, if there is demand for apartment or condo living in these neighborhoods, what if we simply allowed it? If someone wants to open a shop or pub right in the middle of these neighborhoods because the market is there, and the developer feels they can stay in business with minimal parking, what if we allowed that too? If enough people want to bicycle to these destinations, lets stripe bicycle lanes or better yet install trails, just as we provide lanes for cars (hard to do after the fact, so we may want to plan for them). If it appears that developers are willing to build at transit-supportive densities, let's provide a transit network (again, hard to do after the fact so lets plan for this contingency too).

    I know, its overly simplistic and just meant to illustrate the counterpoint ... but no more simplistic that what we have done for the past several decades, a system built not just on market demand, but on government planning, strict land controls, and subsidies. I think market studies are showing increasing demand for both small-lot housing (less than 5,000 sq. ft.) and apartments and condos, as we have a new generation coming into the market and as 73% of households don't have children at home. IMHO, our best bet seems to be to accommodate the range of housing while removing subsidies that are counter to sustainability (such as subsidies for larger mortgages and for auto transportation). If we make our cities more attractive, I think more people would choose this option (stop building highways along the waterfronts, for example), but I think the U.S. is far from any political situation where planning would be used to force people into urban areas.

    I think as planners we also have a duty to plan - not simply regulate in response to forces like NIMBY. While many people in my growing metro area may have liked those roomy single-family neighborhoods, for example, did they also like the eventual 8 lanes of congested highway traffic at a standstill during rush hours? The appearance of their commercial corridors? The inability to walk to a destination such as shopping or schools? Street networks that are very difficult to retrofit for transit? The eating up of open space nearby for new neighborhoods while their governments didn't have the foresight to set aside and protect some lands? My guess is they didn't know this is what they were choosing. I think people are expressing preferences for a variety of housing types, including single-family, as well as neighborhoods where one can walk to destinations, and that accommodate the rail transit we voted for and preserve the open space voters have supported. This is where the profession of planning comes in, if we are to create livable cities as we face growth.

  23. #73
    Cyburbian Linda_D's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by PennPlanner View post
    Uh - but they keep buying the slapped up McSuburb, no? And besides, what makes you think the McSuburb can't be walkable? Nothing's preventing you from getting out of your car and walking, no?

    Sure, if you were to ask people if they like pretty images of walkable neighborhoods, most would say yes. Few people are going to argue against requirements that you put in sidewalks. But however you dress up the suburbia with new form requirements most people are still going to get into a car and *drive* somewhere. I grew up in a very walkable older neighborhood in Baltimore, laid out by none other than Olmstead's firm, with a core community business center, schools, libraries, shops, restaurants and other amenities within walking distances.

    Guess what, most people still drove. Many of my classmates were driven all of .25 miles to school by their parents. Most of the residents work elsewhere, not just five miles away in downtown Baltimore but a hour away in Washington or elswhere in the suburbs. Most of the shopping is elsewhere. People drove.

    The car is not going to disappear. The car offers people the most flexbile range of choices for our options and lifestyles as possible. You can design as many TOD developments as you want but even those will have to factor in the car. The TOD stations along DC are filled with commuters who hop off the metro and then get into a car and drive elsewhere. I do not forsee that the car will be come a rare luxury within our lifetime. Petrol prices are very high in Europe, much higher than in the US, but the Europeans have put up with it by driving much more fuel efficient cars and spending less on other budgetary items. Americans will do the same.
    I think that you've hit on the fundamental problem with all the plans that individuals with urbanist agendas spin: they aren't couched in reality because the urbanists don't understand people. They assume that most people want what they want: walk to work, proximity to restaurants and bars, little or no outdoor maintenance.

    The fact is that people who have enough economic resources to live outside of public housing or the cheapest private rentals, make their decisions on where to live based on a variety of factors that don't necessarily include proximity to their employment or "bars and restaurants". First and foremost among those decisions are perceptions of safety and local schools. Most people sacrifice "lifestyle" to live where they feel safe and/or the schools are considered at least "decent", especially when we're talking 3.5-15 mile commutes rather than 35 mile commutes.

    IMO, rising gasoline prices are likely to revitalize first and second ring suburbs, especially those that have school districts with good reputations and that have used strict code enforcement to maintain the quality of their housing stock. There may also be some higher density residential redevelopment in these suburbs, possibly in remediated brownfields.

  24. #74
    Cyburbian Richmond Jake's avatar
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    How can anybody be expected to wade through all this holier-than-thou melange? Makes no sense. It's all mental masturbation.


    OK, give me the yellow card.
    Habitual Offender

  25. #75
    There is a large and rich literature on how people chose where they live. Though these vary by study, they tend to be: cost, proximity to employment, schools, race (many Whites don't want to live in neighborhoods with more than 15% or so African Americans), crime, and amenities such as parks, stores to walk to, etc. Strangely enough, large lot size or the presence of sidewalks don't appear on these lists.

    These describe how people as a whole decide where to live, not any one individual.

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