Thursday, December 11, 2008

Bad things that Came out of the Seventies (other than Disco)

I heard this on "All things considered" yesterday.

We used to have this urban-planning idea that we'd have these pockets of pure-residential areas that had a buffer from almost purely commercial areas known as "drivable suburbia" or "edge cities." In the seventies,people wanted to live in little cul-de-sacs of living and concrete jungles of shopping, commerce, and bigass parking lots somewhere else. I remember in the late eighties our neighborhood had huge opposition to the building of a new commercial area near our housing development because it would bring noise and crime and (gasp!) more people.

I wish I could say this is the way the market had things turn out, but that would be hooey. (I like to say hooey now because the word I really want to say makes the little green men cry.) It was carried about using subsidies and political lobbies that worked to have things zoned the way they thought best suited their views. Some might call that democracy or "majority rule" but that would be of equal portion of hooey, since most people who thought it to be a bad idea probably didn't care as much to organize and petition the local government as the "nimby"-ites (Not In My Back Yard, "nimby").

Now, some folks are having buyers remorse. Now, we want shorter commutes, closer access to jobs, groceries, routine shopping, and even public transportation (?) and people aren't so sure that driving 20-30 minutes is the best way to go about it. Maybe in fifty years when we have flying cars that run on banana peels and composted garbage we'll want to go back to our edge cities.

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