• @tal
    3 months ago

    And I would feel safe claiming that most Americans who might consider bikeped commutes rule it out because it is just not practical with our sprawling, idiotic suburban model.

    Cars are what permit suburban areas to be practical; it was the rise of the car (and a few related technologies to a lesser degree, like the tram) that made the suburb popular. So, yeah, I think that it’s probably fair to say that suburbs aren’t well-suited to bicycle commuting, or foot.

    But in general, people can – well, in general; if you’re a farmer or something that constrains you to live away from urban areas, no, but in general – live in urban areas rather than suburban. I mean, we have cities, and there are built-up areas in those cities, and in general, if you live in the suburb of a city, you could live in the city proper.

    But that’s not the choice that people have generally been making. If we expected people to want to live in an urban environment, we’d expect to see apartment and condo prices in high-density areas constantly rising. We’d expect to see population on net shifting from suburbs into cities.



    That shows that more people from outside the US entering the US move into an urban area than a suburban area. But inside the US – and overall – people have generally headed out of urban areas to live in suburbs.

    That is, I don’t think that the problem is that planners have failed to provide what the consumer generally wants. I think that the consumer has had the option, and has decided that he wants to live in a suburb with a car.

    Also, I think that there’s a question of whether this is US-specific or whether the US is just a leading indicator. My guess is that the world will likely tend to shift towards suburbs, absent some form of technological change. One tends to see urbanization globally – that is, people move out of rural areas, as a smaller portion of a developed economy is involved in agriculture. But that doesn’t mean that it’s to high-density areas; that’s inclusive of growth of suburbs:


    To many people, the term “urban growth” connotes shiny new high-rise buildings or towering skyscrapers. But in a new analysis of 478 cities with populations of more than 1 million people, researchers at the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies (F&ES) found urban growth is seldom typified by such “upward” growth. Instead, the predominant pattern in cities across the world is outward expansion: Think suburbs instead of skyscrapers.

    The article does mention India’s zoning restrictions:

    In contrast, in places where populations are growing but zoning is sometimes restrictive (India)…

    I’ve read before about problematic Indian zoning laws that restrict heights of construction in Indian cities; that might legitimately be a case where people are kept from living in higher-density areas despite wanting to do so. But I’m skeptical that that is a dominant factor globally. If one removed height restrictions on construction in some cities – take London, for example, where one has line-of-sight restrictions – I can certainly believe that prices in the built-up areas would drop somewhat, and a greater portion of people would live in the city proper than is the case today. Fine, that probably makes sense. But are height restrictions the dominant reason that people don’t choose to live in urban areas? Chicago has relatively non-restrictive height regulations, but it’s seen outflow too. This article discusses it and finds a small amount of growth right in downtown, a lot of growth in suburbs and exurbs, and population loss in the area in between:


    The story was much different outside the core area. The balance of the city, where 93 percent of the people live, lost 250,000 residents – a loss greater than that of any municipality in the nation over the period – including Detroit. The losses were pervasive. More than 80 percent of the city’s 77 community areas located outside the core lost population.

    Thus, the core area boom is far more than negated by the losses in the balance of the city. The losses that were sustained in the area between the urban core and the outer suburbs and exurbs were virtually all in the city itself.

    The overwhelming reality of metropolitan growth in Chicago, however, is that the outer suburbs and exurbs continue to capture virtually all growth. Overall, areas outside 20 miles from the core of Chicago gained 573,000 residents between 2000 and 2010. By contrast, the entire metropolitan area gained only 362,000 residents. As a result, these outer suburbs and exurbs accounted for 158% of the Chicago metropolitan area’s population growth between 2000 and 2010. The core gains, city and inner suburban losses are illustrated in Figure 3.

    That doesn’t really look like what one would expect if people were really intent on living in higher-density areas.

    • admiralteal
      3 months ago

      Literally everything you’ve written here is premised on the idea that people have a choice. That both kinds of living arrangements are equally available and people are choosing one over the other. That and a mistaken understanding of density that so many people have, where you think only Metropolis style apartment blocks could possibly be walkable when really the small town Main Street has been the icon of walkability for basically all of human history.

      It’s such a fundamental error that I’m comfortable dismissing pretty much everything else you wrote based on it. There’s a reason almost the entire world and human history has cities that generally follow the same pattern. Walkable, modest density communities with a mix of uses that grow organically.

      And there’s a reason those don’t get built anymore in the US. It’s not because people hate them. People love them. The ones that do exist are some of the most desirable places to live based on so many metrics. Particularly price, which is the true story - the supply on these kinds of towns is unbelievably tight and so people can’t afford to live in them. They’re forced by factors outside of their own preference and control to instead live in places that 100% require a car for all day today life activities with absolutely no mix of uses and where it is only legal to build single-family detached homes. Because these places are way cheaper. Even though they shouldn’t be. They absolutely and objectively should cost more to live in because it costs more for the municipal government to service you living in them. You consume more public resources living in them. But we subsidize them so much that they magically get cheaper even inclusive of one or two $10,000 a year cars.

      The reason suburbs show so much clear growth is because we subsidize them intensely in so many ways.

      And it wouldn’t even matter if you were right and people genuinely preferred suburbs because they’re not financially productive they’re not financially sustainable and they’re an environmental disaster. Just having a preference for something doesn’t mean that the government should tax everyone else and subsidize it for you.