Sprawl—that scourge of urban designers who prize a tightly packaged city, walkable neighborhoods, and mixed-use development that brings together homes with businesses and shops—may have finally met its match. At least, that’s the hope of the enclave of people who study settlement and land use, and who now sheepishly admit they’re rooting for high energy prices. “Urban planners have been beating their heads against the wall for decades trying to get Americans to settle in a more compact pattern on the landscape for the very reasons we’re starting to see now,” says Thomas Campanella, an associate professor of city and regional planning at the University of North Carolina—Chapel Hill. “To be honest, I feel that rising gas prices…are going to do more for good, sustainable urban planning than the entire urban planning profession.”
First, I don’t see walkable neighborhoods and mixed-use development as a “prize.” First, it should be fundamental to living, or at least the option to do so, but there are so few options in this country. In this way, the “market” has failed us.
So it’s either of two things: either the market truly isn’t the fairest and most equitable method of delivering products to the people OR it isn’t actually a “free” market capable of meeting the needs and demands of the populous. I already know the answer to be the latter. “It was a rhetorical question, Erol. What ‘ave I told you about thinking.” ~ Bricktop.
Also, it is that we understood that the natural resources the system was built on were quite finite and there was a fundamental understanding of the inherent efficiencies economically, as a subset of the natural environment from which said natural resources are extracted and then in turn exhausted, of that “tightly packed, walkable” construct. Businesses do better, people are happier, tax base is stronger and better appropriated, how much more proof do you need?!?!?!11
Second, I’m quite flabbergasted by all of the secondary and tertiary affects of high gas prices. It’s as if all ills are reversing as people begin to exercise more, walk more, bike more and the fattest country in the world (in history?) begins its diet.
“The American Love Affair with Cars…It’s a lot like Stockholm Syndrome.” ~ Me. I’m oh so clever.