Friday, June 20, 2008

The end is near

Ok, maybe not that end about which we hear various cults prophesizing. This is a case of an end which I'd welcome seeing. What I'm talking about is mostly about an end to the ridiculously inefficient suburban model that has been so prevalent in the U.S. post-WWII. Unless you've been living under a rock (not that there's anything inherently wrong with living under a rock if cheap rent is your thing), you're sure to have noticed that gas prices have made quite a jump gas price over the past few years. For the most part, suburbs are designed as sprawling, serpentine expanses of houses and roads which are meant to be navigated via car (and often large, status symbol SUVs at that). This model of having one's own [distant, faraway] castle was only viable so long as fuel was cheap.

The decision to become a nation dependent on cars to get everywhere and having homes distant from places of work was a short sighted decision in many ways. While we probably won't be switching to widespread New Urban development that quickly, I think we are seeing the initial winds of change. Long commutes are one thing, but also paying mega moolah for the privilege of that long commute from BFE is getting unbearable for more and more people. People are actually moving back to the cities in something of a suburban exodus. Moreover, the combination subprime fallout and changing attitudes about mixed use urban living are adding to the suburban decline.

While I'm glad to see that trends are probably shifting towards more smarter development and less suburban crapmansion development, things will change slowly. I just hope demand doesn't send housing prices for mixed use areas sky high so that I'll be forced to live in the suburbs.

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