The notion of the suburbs is nestled deeply in the collective imagination in America, but as we wrote recently, “the suburbs of today aren’t necessarily the suburbs of yesteryear.” In a future that is increasingly urban, where suburbs are rapidly changing, what changes should they consider to stay prosperous and resilient?
The popular narrative about younger generations aging and leaving urban centers is presented as inevitable. But most news stories fail to examine why many younger people are taking up residence in suburbia—or whether or not the suburbs they’re choosing have more in common with cities or the exurbs their parents preferred. Perhaps their move to the suburbs is more a product of constrained housing supply that leaves them with little choice but to decamp as they grow.
Bethesda Row in Bethesda, MD, is a walkable area amidst a suburban community. Photo by ehpien via Flickr.
Suburbs around the country are reinventing themselves by adopting pedestrian-friendly streets and amenities, according to a new special report by CNBC. The growing demand for neighborhoods where people can walk to shops, restaurants, parks and schools is outpacing supply—but creating walkable communities goes beyond simply building sidewalks. Geoff Anderson, President and CEO of Smart Growth America spoke to CNBC about the new trend.
Crossposted from the Huffington Post.
Last week, my colleague Chris Leinberger wrote a provocative op-ed in the New York Times titled “The Death of the Fringe Suburb.” Leinberger, who is president of LOCUS: Responsible Real Estate Developers and Investors, which is a project of Smart Growth America, highlighted the convergence of a number of factors in heralding the decline of far flung, auto-dependant exurbs. Rising gas prices, demographic changes, and shifting consumer preferences have all made these areas less attractive to homebuyers — a fact reflected in the financial troubles and foreclosure crises many of these communities face.
This gloomy portrait, however, is only the prelude to Leinberger’s discussion of an exciting new wave of demand for real estate. Today, the most valuable housing is in center city and inner suburb communities where shops, schools and homes are within walking distance of one another. More and more Americans want to live in these affordable and accessible neighborhoods — and the proof is in the prices of homes in these areas. Perhaps even more importantly, this type of development is where the knowledge economy thrives, helps support regional economies and promotes environmental sustainability.
David LeBlanc started slugging in 1997 and has been doing it ever since. He’s such a strong slugging supporter that he wrote a short guide and system map for users and now runs the Slug Lines website which is dedicated to the idea.
“Slugging” is an innovative, grassroots form of commuting in Washington DC and Northern Virginia that helps commuters get in and out of the city easily and efficiently. High occupancy vehicle (HOV) lanes, which require two or more passengers to use, provided the inspiration: drivers who would like to use the more efficient lanes pick up passengers – nicknamed “slugs” – and passengers, for their part, get a free and easy ride into the city. People almost always ride with strangers, but there’s a thriving community of devoted “sluggers.”
No one regulates or manages slugging; it’s a grassroots community of commuters who create carpools on the fly. A few other cities around the country have tried it to varying degrees, but it’s uniquely successful in the DC metro area. No one has ever conducted a formal survey or tally, but in 2007 the Virginia DOT pegged the number of daily sluggers at approximately 10,000 commuters.
LeBlanc visited Smart Growth America’s headquarters this week to discuss some of the frequently asked questions about slugging.
Blueprint America takes a look at Buford Highway in suburban Atlanta, Georgia, where pedestrians risk injury – and even death – just trying to cross the street.
The CEO’s for Cities study from a few months ago, “Driven to the Brink,” has gained some traction, this time in video form. YouTube’s editors picked it up last week to highlight on the main page, and as a result, it’s gotten over 120,000 plays and nearly 800 comments. Do check it out below. From … Continued
updated 6/27: The NYT changed the previous headline from “country living” to the “far suburbs.” Good piece today in the New York Times, surveying the scope of changing preferences for buying in the suburbs as energy prices continue rising: Suddenly, the economics of American suburban life are under assault as skyrocketing energy prices inflate the … Continued
Unfortunately for the owners of either, they’re both losing value. That’s the connection — echoed by SGA — in a Wall Street Journal piece this morning on today’s front page by Ana Campoy on gasoline consumption and miles driven trending downwards, and how it’s beginning to drastically affect Americans’ housing and transportation choices: Meanwhile, people … Continued
Almost overnight, it has become the most pressing issue in the minds of most Americans. CNN’s most popular topic this week? “Fueling America.” Gas prices are now competing with Iraq, the economy at large, and even Angelina Jolie for primacy in the national consciousness. If you’re interested in the numbers, do check out Google Trends. … Continued