in my twitter adventures, i get into lots of heated debates about all manner of subject. recently a discussion was had about the future of our urban environments and how to incorporate our current suburban architecture “into the fold” so to speak. during the course of this discussion I suggested that the suburbs won’t die till Americans get over their “bigger is better” mentality. a good friend of mine calmly suggests that “it is not always about bigger is better, SUV, etc. some people like the disconnect of suburbs”. and I have to wonder, is that true? do we really want to “unlug” and retreat to the relative solitude of the burbs with our minivans and flat screen tvs and 5000 channels all showing the Real Housewives of Orange County and Jersey Shore? or is the majority leaning more towards more dense urban lifestyles?
personally I think it’s both. there is a market for everyone. there are those that prefer the quiet suburbs and even the desolate rural areas that surround our cities and stretch across our country. but then there are also those that prefer the hustle and bustle of dense urban metropolis complete with mass transit and walkable micro-neighborhoods within the larger urban landscape. the real issue as we continue to move ever forward as developing nations is how do we connect all these different “islands” of development? how do we create vibrant, interconnected and inclusive cities that include urban, suburban and rural neighborhoods?
the simple answer is public transit – combinations of rail and bus lines that work in tandem with existing and future roadway networks. this, in my opinion, is the future of “city life”. you’ll be able to live in a rural neighborhood, maybe with a couple of acres of land, your own small farm perhaps. but you work in the urban core as a stock broker or architect or whatever. you drive to a transit hub, park your car/truck and take a train into the urban core. the same would be true of living in a suburban area. and then going the other direction, living in the urban core it would be possible to take transit OUT to the suburban and rural areas of your city, to one of these hubs, and from there perhaps rent a car and go out to whatever activity is available – hiking, camping, river rafting…whatever.
I think we’re getting close to a time where the old ideas of utopian city planning are going to come true, but on a much larger scale than was ever conceived or even intended. whether this happens in the next 5 years or 20, what is apparent is that we can’t continue as we have. our total dependence on the single user auto is ending, suburban sprawl has failed and our urban centers struggle to stay viable. but if we connect all these “struggling” entities into contributing parts of a whole linked by efficient transit corridors then success is much more attainable and without giving up our diverse lifestyle options.