Plumb Lines

May 7, 2009

Not All Suburbs are Soulless

Filed under: Uncategorized — David Schaengold @ 3:20 pm

Oakley, a neighborhood in Cincinnati

While we’re talking about different kinds of suburbs, allow me to second Yglesias’ point:

So you imagine a family that lives on a cul-de-sac and owns two cars and their oldest kid is hoping to get a car as soon as she turns 16 because without a car you can’t get anywhere at all and wonder what it would take to get them to start living like a carless twentysomething on the Lower East Side. Well, it’s very hard to say.

The American downtown is an outlier in terms of density (though Manhattan looks like rural Nebraska compared to some Asian megacities), compared to the European cities that urbanists are so fond of. It’s unlikely that the majority of Americans will ever be comfortable raising a family in a thousand square feet on the twentieth floor of high-rise. This doesn’t mean, however, that we’re stuck with cul-de-sacs, no sidewalks, vinyl siding and two-car garages.  Plenty of inner-ring suburbs in the United States, and city neighborhoods outside central downtowns, achieve a level of density that can support retail and rail transit within walking distance of residences, even though single-family homes predominate. What’s preventing these neighborhoods from blossoming into mixed-use, pedestrian-friendly environments are zoning restrictions and a transportation bureaucrats who think lane-widening is synonymous with “road improvement.”

David Schaengold


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