Monday, October 25, 2010

Inner Growth

Leinberger in the Washington Monthly sums it up that outward expansion, stuffing ourselves with suburban cake, is coming to a merciful end. Time to shape up, qualitatively improve ourselves rather than quantitatively as measured by weight, girth, body fat, etc...cuz if we are our cities, and our cities are our economy, it is loaded up with lard currently. Gooey, gelatinous, wasteful excess baggage that must be shed.

Instead, our only choice is that of health: getting smarter, stronger, healthier, with a more efficient circulatory system (transpo) and greater lung capacity (natural environment). There is no magic pill for that. Only will, dedication, and hard work. Time for all of America to be a contestant on the Biggest Loser...or we could just stick are head in the sands, fingers in our ears, lalalalalalalala can't hear you, and hope the mean world just blows away like the last tornado warning:

In the postwar years, America pushed its built environment outward, beyond the central cities, creating millions of new construction jobs and new markets for cars and appliances—a virtuous cycle of commerce that helped power American prosperity for decades (until, of course, it went too far, leading to the oversupply of exurban development that is acting as deadweight on the current recovery). The coming demographic convergence will push construction inward, accelerating the rehabilitation of cities and forcing existing car-dependent suburbs to develop more compact, walkable, and transit-friendly neighborhoods if they want to keep property values up and attract tomorrow’s homebuyers. All this rebuilding could spur millions of new construction jobs. But more importantly, if done right, with “smart growth” zoning codes that reward energy efficiency, it would create new markets for power-conserving materials and appliances, providing American designers and manufacturers with experience producing the kinds of green products world markets will increasingly want.

In addition to fueling long-term economic growth, the new demand for walkable neighborhoods could provide other benefits. One of the biggest drivers of rising health care costs is the expansion of chronic diseases like obesity, diabetes, and heart disease—conditions exacerbated by the sedentary lifestyles of our car-dependent age. All would be substantially reduced if Americans move into higher-density, transit-friendly neighborhoods in which more walking is built into their daily routine.