…once rundown downtowns are being revitalized by well-educated, young professionals who have no desire to live in a detached single family home typical of a suburbia where life is often centered around long commutes and cars.
Instead, they are looking for what Leinberger calls “walkable urbanism” — both small communities and big cities characterized by efficient mass transit systems and high density developments enabling residents to walk virtually everywhere for everything — from home to work to restaurants to movie theaters.
I think it’s important to point out how important rail is to this kind of car-free vision. Rail encourages the high-density housing that spurs high-density retail within walking distance. Furthermore, as someone who sometimes uses the bus mid-day and weekends, I’ll point out that without the large capital investment in rail (and ever-spiraling gas prices) the temptation to reduce bus service to inconveniently long intervals is just too high.
When distances are at most a couple of miles and parking is free, the only way transit can compete is with frequent and reliable service, which is much easier to do with rail. The easy platform-level boarding is also a big plus for those pushing carts and strollers (because they’re going about their daily lives!).
The so-called New Urbanism movement emerged in the mid-90s and has been steadily gaining momentum, especially with rising energy costs, environmental concerns and health problems associated with what Leinberger calls “drivable suburbanism” — a low-density built environment plan that emerged around the end of the World War II and has been the dominant design in the U.S. ever since.
Thirty-five percent of the nation’s wealth, according to Leinberger, has been invested in constructing this drivable suburban landscape…
I wish they’d broken down that 35% figure a bit more, but it’s a useful reminder that the current drive-everywhere status quo isn’t some sort of state of nature, but a directly intended product of subsidies and that right-wing bugaboo, “social engineering.”
The result is an oversupply of depreciating suburban housing and a pent-up demand for walkable urban space, which is unlikely to be met for a number of years. That’s mainly, according to Leinberger, because the built environment changes very slowly; and also because governmental policies and zoning laws are largely prohibitive to the construction of complicated high-density developments.
(Via FP Passport)