Suburbs

Book Review: 'The End of the Suburbs,' by Leigh Gallagher

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Suburbia has been a favorite whipping boy of urbane intellectuals, who have foretold its decline for decades. Leigh Gallagher's "The End of the Suburbs" is the latest addition to this tired but tireless genre. The book lacks the sparkling prose and original insights one could find in the works of, say, Jane Jacobs or Lewis Mumford. Indeed, Ms. Gallagher's book is little more than a distillation of the conventional wisdom that prevails at Sunday brunch in Manhattan.

The author restages many of the old anti-suburban claims, and her introduction's section headings easily give away the gist of the argument: "Millennials hate the burbs"; "Our households are shrinking"; "We are eco-obsessed"; "The suburbs are poorly designed to begin with"; and so on.  read more »

Suburb Hating is Anti-Child

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Sure, suburbs have big problems. Their designs force their inhabitants to drive in cars, instead of walking and bicycling. This diminishes face-to-face interactions, physical health, and the quality of the environment. Aesthetically, many of them, particularly those dreaded “planned communities,” are quite boring. People who live there tend not to have much contact with people who aren’t like them, so suburbs reinforce racial, religious, and class segregation.  read more »

Cities Don’t Consume Resources, People Do

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Urban form or urban consumers? If we want to reduce the environmental impacts of modern society let’s prioritize consumption, not city form.  The evidence suggests that large cities (and especially city centres) are associated with a bigger environmental footprint than modest cities or suburbs. 

This post looks at incomes and consumption, especially the consumption of housing and transport services, asking how far can local regulation really influence environmental impacts?  read more »

Plan Bay Area: Telling People What to Do

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The San Francisco area’s recently adopted Plan Bay Area may set a new standard for urban planning excess. Plan Bay Area, which covers nearly all of the San Francisco, San Jose, Santa Rosa, Vallejo and Napa metropolitan areas, was recently adopted by the Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC) and the Association of Bay Area Governments (ABAG).  read more »

Children and Cities

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Central cities are not likely to regain their former population. However, some of them may have reached an important inflection point—population growth has returned to at least some of the largest (and longest-declining) cities. For example, New York City’s population has increased by more than one million since 1990, after declining by about one million between 1950 and 1980. Over the past decade, nine of the ten largest (and 17 of the 20 largest) cities in the United States have gained population.  read more »

Mobility for the Poor: Car-Sharing, Car Loans, and the Limits of Public Transit

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Public transit systems intend to enhance local economies by linking people to their occupations. This presents problems for many  low-income families  dependent on transit for commuting. With rising prices at the gas pump, much hope has been placed on an influx of investment into public transit to help low-income households. But does public transit really help the poor?  read more »

Distortions and Reality about Income Mobility

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A ground-breaking study of intergenerational income mobility has the enemies of suburbia falling all over themselves to distort the findings. The study, The Spatial Impacts of Tax Expenditures: Evidence from Spatial Variation Across the U.S. (by economists Raj Chetty and Nathaniel Hendren of Harvard University and Patrick Kline and Emmanuel Saez of the University of California, Berkeley). Chetty, et al.  read more »

Detroit, Why Hast Thou Forsaken Me?

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Thou wouldst fain destroy the temple! If thou be Jesus, Son of the Father, now from the Cross descend thou, that we behold it and believe on thee when we behold it. If thou art King over Israel, save thyself then!

God, My Father, why has thou forsaken me? All those who were my friends, all have now forsaken me. And he that hate me do now prevail against me, and he whom I cherished, he hath betrayed me.

Lyric excerpts from the Fifth and Fourth and Words, respectively, of the Seven Last Words of Christ orchestral work by Joseph Haydn.

I’m pissed.  read more »

What Detroit’s Bankruptcy Teaches America

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As has long been expected, the city of Detroit has officially filed for bankruptcy.  While many will point to the sui generis nature of the city as a one-industry town with extreme racial polarization and other unique problems, Detroit’s bankruptcy in fact offers several lessons for other states and municipalities across America.  read more »

A Suburban Economic Future?

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The basic, often unappreciated, fact  about economic life in Australia’s  metropolitan regions are that most of the jobs are in suburban locations. Our central business districts (CBDs) – prominent though they are – account for only around 10% of all metro wide jobs. That rises to maybe 15% if you include inner city areas. But still, 85% of everyone else who calls Brisbane, Sydney, or Melbourne home works somewhere other than the CBD or inner city.  read more »