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Climate vs Urbanization in the South

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As most of us know, the South did not start to develop until the era of cheap air conditioning made it a confortable place to live during the summer months. One consideration that we have not discussed here is the role of climate on the development of Southern cities. Could it be the reason that we are primarly an automobile based society because people would rather sit in air conditioned cars instead of walking to transit stops in the heat of the day? Imaging walking a 1/4 mile in business clothes when it is 95-100 degree to a transit stop. What do you guys think?

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As most of us know, the South did not start to develop until the era of cheap air conditioning made it a confortable place to live during the summer months. One consideration that we have not discussed here is the role of climate on the development of Southern cities. Could it be the reason that we are primarly an automobile based society because people would rather sit in air conditioned cars instead of walking to transit stops in the heat of the day? Imaging walking a 1/4 mile in business clothes when it is 95-100 degree to a transit stop. What do you guys think?

I would guess that it plays a part for most of we southerners. Up until 8-9 months ago, I lived 1 mile from my office. I could have walked to and from work, but as hot as it gets in the summer months around here (for instance it'll be 93 tomorrow and it's still June) I would have been so nasty and sweaty once I made it that mile. As it stands now, I could drive my car to my parents' house (10-12 miles from here,) park my car, and ride the bus to work. But having to walk the 1/2-mile to 1 mile to the bus stop in this heat would definitely be uncomfortable. That said, I can see this being one of the reasons we're so dependant on cars.

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As most of us know, the South did not start to develop until the era of cheap air conditioning made it a confortable place to live during the summer months. One consideration that we have not discussed here is the role of climate on the development of Southern cities. Could it be the reason that we are primarly an automobile based society because people would rather sit in air conditioned cars instead of walking to transit stops in the heat of the day? Imaging walking a 1/4 mile in business clothes when it is 95-100 degree to a transit stop. What do you guys think?

I've always thought e exact same thing you just stated. These Texas temperatures in the 100s for 3-4 months make me less than excited about waiting for a train in a coat, pants, and tie. In Atlanta you get to wait underground but the humidity it oppressive at times.

The exception, I guess, was New Orleans. It seemed like the one Southern city where you could go carless in much of the city and it was well on its way into becoming that way throughout the city before Katrina.

That said, MARTA and DART seem to be successes. It's just that the majority of the population doesn't use them regularly and doesn't see the reason to push an expensive expansion to make it a comprehensive system. I think the temperature and convenience of AC throughout your trip and avoiding a long walk are a big factor.

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Yeah, I walk to school everyday. It can get hot in the late spring/early summer months. It's either walk to school, or spend gas money for the short drive. It can be a tough choice sometimes. That heat can be unbearable on some days. Ive walked to school during the winter months too. Just to tell my kids one day theyre lucky for what they have, cause I had to walk to school. Uphill both ways :lol: So for now Im bearing down the heat, it's not too bad. Itll get worse Im sure, but nothing a little deodorant will clear up :thumbsup: Luckily schools out though, until next year.

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Very good point. I never thought about it like that but it does make sense.

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In more progressive places there are a lot of "new urbanist" neighborhoods going up, but they don't seem to take the hot weather into account when designing public spaces. Why don't designs in the South account for the weather, or do most just assume that people are not going to walk outside when it is hot. It seems to me that some places could be built using design clues from the more tropical areas of the planet rather than pretending that we are in Northern europe.

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In more progressive places there are a lot of "new urbanist" neighborhoods going up, but they don't seem to take the hot weather into account when designing public spaces. Why don't designs in the South account for the weather, or do most just assume that people are not going to walk outside when it is hot. It seems to me that some places could be built using design clues from the more tropical areas of the planet rather than pretending that we are in Northern europe.

It surprises me that many areas of the south don't take our climate into consideration when designing public places. Outdoor shopping malls have become popular in the south as have these new urbanist communities. What works in the northern states won't necessarily work here. But to be completely honest with you, even some areas of the northern U.S., which get hammered with blizzards during the Winter, are still thriving urban transit centers. A northern Winter can be just as bad... if not worse... than a southern Summer. Below-zero temperatures and flying snow in your face is just as deadly as 100+ degree heat. How come people in the north can deal with that and we in the south can't? I understand that, in some areas of the north urban transit is more of a necessity than here in the south, but even down here it should be becoming one... especially in cities with dense urban cores like Houston, Miami, etc.

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As most of us know, the South did not start to develop until the era of cheap air conditioning made it a confortable place to live during the summer months. One consideration that we have not discussed here is the role of climate on the development of Southern cities. Could it be the reason that we are primarly an automobile based society because people would rather sit in air conditioned cars instead of walking to transit stops in the heat of the day? Imaging walking a 1/4 mile in business clothes when it is 95-100 degree to a transit stop. What do you guys think?

Great points Metro.

Living in Atlanta (or most of the south) and working in corporate America can be oppressive. When I worked in corporate America, I had the misfortune of always working in dress up locations. By dress up locations I mean that women were "encouraged" to wear hoisery, close toed shoes and business suits. When you throw in the fact that it's humid in the south...which reeks havoc on a nice hairstyle and makeup, I can see how the south became so auto dependant. Sometimes during the summer months they would relax the dress code. I hated this time of the year because some people take dress down too seriously. :huh:

As Apork mentioned earlier, waiting on a MARTA train in 95 degree weather can be unbearable. When my last corporate job moved to Buckhead, I tried to do the trendy thing and ride the subway. Maybe I was not trying to be trendy but was trying to get around sitting in traffic on Peachtree Rd. :wacko: When it's hot, you can only take off so many clothes before you get indecent. There were a couple of days that it was so hot that I wanted to take off everything and ride the train in heels and undergarments. My husband would NOT have been pleased.

I just envy those people we were able to work in relaxed offices.

I think the summer heat was probably one of the reason the south developed such a car dependency. Look at the number of enclosed malls in the metros of major sunbelt cities.

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I do not think the climate is what held the South back from being completely urbanized and less car dependent as our northern counterparts.

People who were born and raised in the south, north, west, etc. tend to be able to adapt to the natural surroundings of their region. Thus, natives of the south should be used to the heat; and although it can be oppressive during the summer months it still doesn't seem to stop most people from performing their day to day activities (from what I've observed).

When I was still in college, I opted to take the city bus and walk about six blocks to my first class (not to mention that my second class was waaaaaaay on the other end of campus). Being a native of the south, I didn't have a problem then and although it was really hot, it did not stop me from taking public transit or walking to my destination(s).

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I do not think the climate is what held the South back from being completely urbanized and less car dependent as our northern counterparts.

People who were born and raised in the south, north, west, etc. tend to be able to adapt to the natural surroundings of their region. Thus, natives of the south should be used to the heat; and although it can be oppressive during the summer months it still doesn't seem to stop most people from performing their day to day activities (from what I've observed).

When I was still in college, I opted to take the city bus and walk about six blocks to my first class (not to mention that my second class was waaaaaaay on the other end of campus). Being a native of the south, I didn't have a problem then and although it was really hot, it did not stop me from taking public transit or walking to my destination(s).

There is a difference in being used to the south's weather and having to take public transportation in business attire. In the many years I have been in the south (I'm not going to tell my age but I'm sure there are some forummers here whose ages can be multiplied by 2 to get how long I have been in the south), I still don't like heat or humidity. Being in college and going to class in heat is a big difference than working in business attire and taking public transportation in the summer heat. When I was treking around UGA....which I never went during the summertime....I was not wearing clothing that I would deem acceptable in a corporate environment. These days however I do think that society has dressed down to such a degree that things I would never wear to a place of worship, the symphony/opera or place of work are acceptable.

Living in a city with "extensive" (in relative terms) public transportation....Dallas being the other....I think that while the option is there, the heat for many....if not most can be a hinderance. Like I said earlier, I worked in Buckhead....there was a MARTA station right next to the building...and 85 to 88% of the workforce in the towers opted to drive and pay for parking. This, when the company I worked for subsidized monthly MARTA cards (we only had to pay $20/month for unlimited rides). While I don't think the heat was the only factor in the decision NOT to take public transportation, I think it was one factor. Noone is going to want to wait in a $3000 St John suit, with $20 hosiery on in 95 degree weather.

I guess we are sticking to this demographic because in most major cities public transportation is probably used more by workers than by college students. This would even be true in university and college laden Atlanta.

I tried it. I'm not speaking from what I think workers will do. Even waiting in an underground station like Five Points, Lindbergh, North Avenue, Midtown or Sandy Springs can be oppressive if you are in business attire. When I was in college, I could wear a babydoll tee and some "hot pants" as my mother call them and call it a day. As I said earlier though, I never went to school during the heat of the summer so I don't really know.

Speaking of dress codes for corporate America, does anyone remember when companies like IBM, MCI, BOA and Bellsouth (SouthernBell) were strict when it came to dress codes.

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It is 95 today and during the few minutes I was outside, it was treacherous. LC is right, and it's probably worse for women; wearing a business suit and walking outside in such heat is not too much fun. As for public transportation, I can't imagine riding on a bus on a hot day. The people on board would smell even worse than they usually do.

San Diego always sounds good to me during these extreme summer months.

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It is 95 today and during the few minutes I was outside, it was treacherous.

Ditto. And on top of that, there was a code red ozone alert in Charlotte today.

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If anything, I think the climate would be a positive for the South. While a quarter of the year is unbearable outside, the other 75% of the year is excellent for walking around. Compare that to the North, where you have to bundle down substantially for half the year when you go outside for more than a minute.

100s aren't walkable in wet heat. 100, in the shade, in dry heat, is pretty reasonable climate though.

A lot of new Urbanist projects lack shade, and that's what hurts them. The historic areas have big oak trees and tall buildings for shade. The new urban areas just have a few midrises, and a big exposed field of white, reflective asphalt to walk around in. It isn't a very well-thought-out design.

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If anything, I think the climate would be a positive for the South. While a quarter of the year is unbearable outside, the other 75% of the year is excellent for walking around. Compare that to the North, where you have to bundle down substantially for half the year when you go outside for more than a minute.

Your comments reflect my sentiments exactly. :thumbsup:

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I was raised in the South, and I hate hot weather. In fact, I like it less now than when I was a kid. To me, temperatures in the 50's are perfect! :thumbsup:

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No wonder you moved to Baltimore (not exactly in the 50's this time of year, but cooler than Greenville). :P

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No wonder you moved to Baltimore (not exactly in the 50's this time of year, but cooler than Greenville). :P

It has been unseasonably hot and dry in Greenville so far this year. We annually receive more rainfall than Seattle, but we're already 12 inches below average for the year, so you can imagine how desperately we need to cool back down. The forecast finally gives us hope this weekend.

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I believe the way most people in the South being auto-dependent is more based on multiple factors rather than 1. These factors includes the way most Southern cities are developed b/c outside of New Orleans, Birmingham, and Charleston, most cities don't have a typical street grid layout. Climate does take some blame for the way we are, but I think the distance between cities takes the majority of the blame. Most Southern cities besides Miami and New Orleans are really spread out in all directions.

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No wonder you moved to Baltimore (not exactly in the 50's this time of year, but cooler than Greenville). :P

Oh, I didn't move, krazee. I am doing a summer internship in Baltimore. I will be back in school in SC this fall. :thumbsup:

P.S. It is 89 degrees in Baltimore today. :blink:

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A northern Winter can be just as bad... if not worse... than a southern Summer. Below-zero temperatures and flying snow in your face is just as deadly as 100+ degree heat. How come people in the north can deal with that and we in the south can't?

This is exactly my point. The hot summers are no worse than the cold winters. The rest of the year is usually relatively pleasant compared to the north. People spend less time outside because there is less light.

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This is exactly my point. The hot summers are no worse than the cold winters. The rest of the year is usually relatively pleasant compared to the north. People spend less time outside because there is less light.

The big concern in this post Katrina and global warming conscious society about living in coastal southern cities such as Tampa, Houston, or Miami is their high succeptability to Hurricanes. I don't think it would be fun to live through a category five hurricane in a major city.

Up here in southern New England we get a handful of truely hot days and a little bit more of truely bitterly cold or really snowy days. You get used to the cold temperatures and in January after a long cold spell 45 degree high temps mean I'm wearing a t-shirt outside, in the fall I'd be freezing my butt off in a t-shirt. Hurricanes and Earthquakes are issues, but a lot of people up here don't think we're all that succeptable. Most people don't even get it that the I95 corridor from NYC to Boston on or relatively close to a fault line that is capable of massive earthquakes, bigger than the biggest one's recorded here.

Over 8 million people live in New York City and it has been growing, not shrinking. People seem to be ok with putting up with the Pacific Northwest's wet climate and its succeptibility to major earthquakes. Weather definately isn't the only deciding factor when people decide where to live, otherwise San Diego would be the largest metro in the country.

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Perhaps not, but San Diego isn't for everyone. I personally like having afternoon thunderstorms and weather systems.... and mostly not just one long rainy season. Some people like it to be sunny and nice day after day. I appreciate variety myself.

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Indeed air conditioning became the turning point in the migration of Americans moving to the sunbelt states. In addition to cheaper land (less restriction on land development), natural attractions and a growing economy is what help brought a large chunk of prosperity to the south & southwest.

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Weather definately isn't the only deciding factor when people decide where to live, otherwise San Diego would be the largest metro in the country.

What about LA? Los Angeles has pretty nice weather too, and it's growing a breakneck speed, it may some day be the biggest metro in the country.

I would love to live in San Diego myself.

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What about LA? Los Angeles has pretty nice weather too, and it's growing a breakneck speed, it may some day be the biggest metro in the country.

I would love to live in San Diego myself.

Well.. isn't LA growing mostly due to Mexican immigration? I don't know about LA, but I hear that California as a whole loses white collar types and retirees to cheaper areas like Nevada and Arizona due to the high cost of living in California...

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