scm

Is Urbanism the New American Dream?

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Yesterday's Dallas Morning News featured a report by a land use strategist, Christopher B. Leinberger, who praised Dallas as a leader in the development of walkable urban centers. The article is here: Dallas a model for 'walkable' urban centers. A great quote from the article:

Dallas already has some of the key drivers

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My thoughts on urbanism - I do think a lot of people are tired of sitting in traffic and tired of having to drive everywhere but consequently the suburbs are ever enlarging, interstates and roads are ever-more choked with traffic as folks look for the perfect house with a yard. I can't blame them in some ways having wanting that but the cost for infrastructure is enormous. One downside to urbanism I have noticed is the increase in traffic it brings with it. Just to compare personally, I live near Town Center and while it is awesome to see it all going up I have noticed quite an uptick in the traffic up and around the center, which is to be expected I guess. The one thing I enjoy about living in a sub-urban area is that the Pembroke area has a sense of place where the other suburban areas nearly have none. Housing in the area has really gone up which mirrors anywhere in an urban type area. It does cost more to live in and around urban amenities.

Edited by urbanvb

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If I'm not mistaken, originally suburbs were served by light rail types of trains. But then the US auto manufacturers bought them up and destroyed them to push their sales.

I don't really know what the perfect transportation solution is.

While we have more people living in suburbs, business is changing. We don't really need all of the retail stores that exist due to the internet. We really don't need everyone to go to work, many could telecommute, but this hasn't caught on in backwoods places like Hampton Roads (there are a good number of people I know who telecommute to companies not located here, it's a good way to get to the 6 figures mark).

I think elevated maglev lines going everywhere would be one solution.

I have to admit though, in DC over the weekend (well two weekends ago I guess).... it took about the same amount of time to go 1 metro stop on the metro as it just took me to go from the Ocean Front (Flipper McCoy's) to downtown Norfolk.

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My thoughts on urbanism - I do think a lot of people are tired of sitting in traffic and tired of having to drive everywhere but consequently the suburbs are ever enlarging, interstates and roads are ever-more choked with traffic as folks look for the perfect house with a yard. I can't blame them in some ways having wanting that but the cost for infrastructure is enormous. One downside to urbanism I have noticed is the increase in traffic it brings with it. Just to compare personally, I live near Town Center and while it is awesome to see it all going up I have noticed quite an uptick in the traffic up and around the center, which is to be expected I guess. The one thing I enjoy about living in a sub-urban area is that the Pembroke area has a sense of place where the other suburban areas nearly have none. Housing in the area has really gone up which mirrors anywhere in an urban type area. It does cost more to live in and around urban amenities.

Well the increase of traffic around the town center has less to do with the fact that it is an urban area and more to do with the fact that they only provided one option to get in and out of the town center. Plus, at the current point, the housing in the town center is still very limited, but that is to be expected, it is still a young downtown.

As for light rail and streetcars, I was going to reference a history book that goes into detail about this, but I can't find it at the moment. I will let you know what it is later, but it goes in great detail on how we got to where we are now. As for all the beotching we all do about the lost of streetcars and the need to go back, the streetcars back then were all privately owned, thus cities did not step in when the private automotive companies started to out do them. Nowadays, we have public funded streetcars and light rail, so the outlook on that is much different. I will try to find that book for you guys, if you are a nerd in the history of cities and urban areas, this is a great book to read.

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Today's VP editorial page has a column by Donald Luzzatto, one of their op-ed writers, titled Driven to exhaustion. You can read it yourself, but he, without knowing it, endorses Leinberger's theory:

I grew up in an old neighborhood inside the Capital Beltway; you could walk to the ball fields, to the candy store, to the principal's office. You could go from Sunday to Sunday before you'd set foot in a car, and only because nobody wanted to walk to church in those clothes. They itched. From our current house, you can walk safely no place at all. The kids' school is miles away, down a divided highway and a couple of exits. Work is miles in the other direction, through a tunnel. Church is miles in still another direction, down roads with no sidewalks. Even when we lived in downtown Suffolk, and had the option of walking, we didn't. I walked once to the office, when Hurricane Isabel made it impossible to drive. We walked once to a restaurant, when our anniversary fell on a warmish February night. Otherwise, like most Americans, we drive everywhere we need to go, both as a choice and as a habit. It seems safer, maybe. It seems faster.

Even when it's neither.

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You can't compare today to days of old. People are more productive, and business expects more from each member of it's workforce. There are more products, and America depends on this consumerism to drive the economy.

Sure our energy consumption is selfish, and sure there are problems in the near future.

But if you expect many Americans to give up their cars and ride a bus to work, I don't see it. Many people wear their cars as their status symbols, to try to show what class they are in. It would be my guess this is more of a girl thing than a guy thing. They all want the most expensive cars possible, or perhaps the big SUVs. That constant consumer competition, to claw to the top of the pile of neighbors to be on top as the most affluent. Even if it's all fueled by debt, and a lease (renting houses is for loosers, but renting cars is okay?). So to ask the materialistic people of our society to give up their cars is going to be a challenge.

Once fuel gets really expensive, perhaps people will forgo eating so they can show who has the money -- aka the ability to drive their own car.

FWIW, I most often walk to work.

FWIW#2, I LOVE MY CAR. And I'd really like a BMW M3. Not a convertible, that is a air head realtor ride. And I'm willing to go for an older one to save money. I like to drive fast (but not like a jerk, I'm generally always watching out for the other people because I don't trust them to be intelligent). And I like my music LOUD AS HELL.

The only downside is, to generally get a garage or two, you gotta live in the suburbs or be baller. And garages are a must to keep your whip pristine.

Edited by Telmnstr

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And I'd really like a BMW M3. Not a convertible, that is a air head realtor ride.
I know a woman, manages a private enterprise here with 2,200 employees -- has her masters in her professional field, and drives a BMW convertable. Definitely not an air head, and definitely not a realtor.

That is only one of many questionable opinions in there -- like the one comparing the wisdom of leasing a depreciating asset like a car (my father told me, "if it flies, floats, or f****, rent it don't own it"), to leasing a long term appreciating asset like a house. Or the wisdom of coveting an expensive depreciating asset that, by your own admission, has little utility in your circumstance.

Edited by scm

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Yesterday's Dallas Morning News featured a report by a land use strategist, Christopher B. Leinberger, who praised Dallas as a leader in the development of walkable urban centers. The article is here: Dallas a model for 'walkable' urban centers. A great quote from the article:

But that led me to look at more of Leinberger's work, including this press release: Is Urbanism the New American Dream?. One interesting quote:

What the critics of HRT's Light Rail fail to see, is how safe, efficient and comfortable mass transit is the backbone for these walkable urban centers. Town Center is obviously one -- downtown could be another. The EVMS area could be another, if more housing is built in Fort Norfolk. This is the vision we need to insist upon in HR -- not ever more sprawl. Interested in how others see this.

Leinberger's web site is here: The Option of Urbanism

Is sprawl even an option at this point? What land exists in Hampton Roads for sprawl?

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Well, HR is pretty sprawled out of its boundaries..... I've gotten lost in it like, what, 20 times? Traffic is also horrible, and the main thing is Virginia Beach has only dug themselves into a hole by building rapidly with no plans..... this resulted in Town Center, which finally fulfills their dreams of a real "downtown"...... but I mean come on..... the Oceanfront has more skyscrapers than THAT..... Richmond has built itself a true downtown.....only problem is....well.... it's DEAD! I can't reallt say much for NoVA.... it's really an up and down and up and down situation with them whenever I drive in that area.....

Edit: *really. not reallt :P

Edited by RVA-Is-The-Best

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I think it is for a certain subset of people. I love the concept of new urbanism, and think the neighborhoods it creats when done successfully are invigorating and full of vitality and visual appeal.

Having said that...I guess I was just raised the old-fashioned way. I like the idea of my own house, my own backyard, and tending to my lawn. I am a car enthusiast, so not only do I like to drive, I like to have room to work on the cars. A townhome might be enough...

I still have a thing for loft living though. Those just rock.

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