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Retrofitting Suburbia: Communities Innovate Their Way Out of Sprawl


Retrofitting Suburbia: Communities Innovate Their Way Out of Sprawl

Erin Sagen

The suburbs have lost a lot of luster in the past 70 years. What was once hailed as a refreshing alternative to the grittiness of city living has been tugged and pulled and paved into a series of brownfields and vacant parking lots that stretch for miles and miles. Public planners have been predicting “the end of suburbia” for at least a decade now, saying that peak oil will starve out those towns and subdivisions that subsist on sprawl.


Suburbs are oriented toward families and a big attraction is good schools and surroundings of trees instead of concrete. But the interstate highway system begun in the 1950s has led to sprawling suburbs clogged with traffic. Attempts of limit sprawl have been largely ineffective as people seek to find their dream homes which in order to be affordable have been built further and further out from the city. The answer with regard to carbon footprint I think is mainly electric vehicles because because sprawl is extremely hard to reverse. Typically around cities the inner ring of suburbs is characterized by decay while the middle ring is economically booming with up-scale shopping and many office parks. The next ring may may have small villages and very expensive housing and outside that is the exburbs with more affordable housing. During rush hours the roads are filled with traffic whether or not mass transit is available. The modern suburbs were built for cars. It is hard to imagine a transformation of the suburbs where main way to get around was by some other form of transportation.


Most of us non-Americans in the world, of which there are several billion, eventually come to acquire the mental habit, whilst reading articles or any information written by Americans, of instinctively trying to ignore, to make allowances for, their tendency to always be incredibly insular and write about the USA as though it is the whole world in order to try and get to the actual kernel of information within it. It's a bit like trying to ignore someone's speech impediment or a poor command of the language they may be speaking in. But you'd think, by now, the writers should at least make some effort considering this is the world wide web and all. Instead of 'The suburbs have lost their lustre...' try 'American suburbs have lost their lustre...' etc. It's not hard and it puts it in better context for those other seven and half billion people living around the globe who may be reading. And avoid insular misinformation like; . "The birthplace of modern suburbia is Long Island, New York, where the first mass-produced suburb, Levittown, started it all." Apart from the fact the Romans invented the word suburbia because they had them back then, modern commuttable suburbia began in the 18th centruy around cities like Manchester and London on the the back of the industrial revolution wherein the affluent middle-classes wanted to get away from the urban poor. The first railway lines were constructed then too. And so "When they emerged 150 years ago, suburban developments sat on the peripheries of cities like New York... should be When American suburbs first emerged 150 years ago, suburban developments sat on the peripheries of cities like New York And so on and so on.... It can't be that hard and it will make processing of information less irritating and alienating for the rest of the planet.