Wednesday, February 4, 2009


Pretty sure I posted part 1 of this "Saving the Suburbs" series in the NYT blog, but here is part 2.

I have to admit, I didn't find anything of real substance in part 2. Here is my comment referencing the super happy save the world suburb (of like twenty houses in car-friendly Austin):

The Sol project is as net energy zero as the cars are that access the development. Not to say there is anything particular wrong with that, but to say this particular project in a sea of tract houses doesn’t actually prove anybody right or wrong.

The real issue is that American cities grew in size/land area, but not in the requisite population, i.e. they didn’t grow organically, aggregating new development with all the services and community infrastructure to be successful in addition to existing development. Rather, we robbed Peter to pay Paul, leaving our downtowns and cities to rot while we all moved into suburban neighborhoods that were principally bankrupt and were only about delivering product to the market place, not making real places with lasting value, socially, environmentally, or ecologically.

See my post on Valencia, ESP for a city and suburbs that work and grew organically to do so:

The primary issue is that there is an appropriate choice for housing types and living environments and that is represented by the current city form in Valencia. In the US, you generally have one place to live, trapped on your cul-de-sac and behind the wheel.

I’m sure the car, road building, oil/gas industries love having a captive market.
Link to a new website that catalogs Freeway Teardowns. But, the real gem is this article pasted on the site, from Induced Demand to Reduced Demand, which is exactly the issue incapsulated into one neat and tidy heading.
This is what transportation planners call "induced demand." Building freeways encourages people to drive longer distances: in the short run, people begin to drive to regional malls rather than local stores, and in the longer run, they move to lower density neighborhoods where they have to drive further for all their trips.
The convenience of driving has become our [and its] own worst enemy.

Road construction, in the attempt to alleviate the pressure further spreads people out and thus creates its own demand to fill the newly created supply, so we're back to square one...only amplified. The real answer is demand side solutions that reduce the need for trips and driving for every facet of life. As my post yesterday suggests, our happiness and well-being depends upon it.

If you're tired of me b!tching about the highway problem affecting downtown Dallas, move to, wait a minute. Don't do that. Check this figure ground of downtown Charlotte and how it has essentially been wiped out except for the very center that is in itself buffered by distance and an eroding urban fabric (much like the four blocks of Main Street that work in Dallas):