Thread: Gas Prices May Revive Cities
#1 Gas Prices May Revive Cities07-21-2008, 12:02 PM
Gas Prices May Revive Cities
Urban planners finally see a way to curb sprawl
Andres Duany is thrilled by the prices he's seeing at the gas pump. The urban planner and high priest of the New Urbanism movement sees today's (and likely tomorrow's) gas prices accomplishing what he and others in his field have long sought: a wholesale re-creation of the American lifestyle. "The urbanism of the United States has been premised on two things," Duany says. "One is inexpensive land. And the other is inexpensive fuel. Both have led to sprawl."
Sprawl—that scourge of urban designers who prize a tightly packaged city, walkable neighborhoods, and mixed-use development that brings together homes with businesses and shops—may have finally met its match. At least, that's the hope of the enclave of people who study settlement and land use, and who now sheepishly admit they're rooting for high energy prices. "Urban planners have been beating their heads against the wall for decades trying to get Americans to settle in a more compact pattern on the landscape for the very reasons we're starting to see now," says Thomas Campanella, an associate professor of city and regional planning at the University of North Carolina—Chapel Hill. "To be honest, I feel that rising gas prices...are going to do more for good, sustainable urban planning than the entire urban planning profession."
Sure, they feel guilty admitting it, but high energy prices—gasoline as well as heating oil and natural gas—could prove to be the force that brings the dreams of urban planners to fruition: a greener, more sustainable society that is also a throwback to the preautomobile age, when it wasn't realistic to have tracts of homes miles away from business centers, which were, in turn, miles away from shopping centers. "There are vast swaths of the landscape that are inaccessible to anything but the automobile," Campanella says. "Obviously, we're going to see real changes if oil is going to skyrocket, and I think we can all assume it's not going to return to levels of the past."
On one hand, the story of the car, and the far-flung communities of huge homes and cul-de-sacs they enabled, is a testament to America's enormous economic success. But it has also meant more obesity, pollution, and, say urban planners, social isolation. They argue that in some ways, the quality of life was higher when Americans had less money to purchase things like cars. "The great cities that people love," Duany says, "were the result of a substantially less wealthy nation that had to be far more intelligent about its assets." He notes cities such as New York, Boston, and San Francisco, which were built for people to live close to their daily needs. A fringe benefit: more opportunities for interaction with and reliance on neighbors.
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07-21-2008, 12:11 PM
- Join Date
- May 2005
- Hartford, CT USA
Oh noes! :eek: Not cities full of evil, loose women! :eek::eek:
07-21-2008, 03:38 PM
San Francisco and New York are on islands for all intents and purposes. There was no coherent planning; simply a lack of space.
My guess is that this will not do much for urban planning at all. As companies become more reliant on the Internet, we will see more telecommuting. Why pay for the overhead of a big office when you don't need to? Suburban communities are already building community hubs that have proved very successful. Why drive into the city when you can go to clubs, restaurants, and cultural events a few miles from home?
People who like and thrive on crowds will always be attracted to urban living. A lot of people simply prefer a quieter existence and they will never be attracted to permanent urban living.
07-21-2008, 08:56 PM
- Join Date
- May 2008
The scarity of land will be a factor in building smaller houses in urban areas. I don't understand why a couple would need a 4k sq. ft. house unless they had a separate room for a pool table, a ping pong table and an indoor golf driving range. Another benefit will be lower utility bills.
I live about 3 miles from downtown and never thought I would see the day that property values in my area would increase faster those out in the burbs.
07-22-2008, 03:24 PM
- Join Date
- May 2008
I really hate the fact that automobiles are a necessity in most cities. I'd much rather not have to own a car at all.
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