An interesting question too few are asking

Want to know what Mayor Dave Norris really thinks about the Meadowcreek Parkway? Check out Jim Duncan’s blog, where he asks a question that more people should be asking: What if the MCP didn’t exist?

Of course, it doesn’t, not yet anyhow. But it exists as an idea on to which different people can project their agendas, values and fears. Sure, it’s two miles of road, but it also serves as a bellwether for issues like transportation and conservation.

Norris makes a good point in the comments:

"Many people say that we’ve been talking about this road for 40 years and it’s time to just get it built. I would say that we’ve been talking about it for 40 years and it’s time to change the terms of the conversation. A whole lot has changed in 40 years about the way we understand urban design and vitality. Let’s not assume that just because something sounded appealing 40 years ago, it still is the best answer for our community."

Obviously, a lot has changed in the last 40 years, but one of most radical potential shifts in our culture is arguably taking place right now, the death of the automobile culture. NRP recently had a story about the stability of home prices in urban areas in the face of declining prices of suburbs and exurbs. Why? Gas prices, for one reason.

And then there’s this piece in the Atlantic, which basically argues that American cities will soon follow the European model of housing its poorest—putting them out in the slums of the suburbs.

"For 60 years, Americans have pushed steadily into the suburbs, transforming the landscape and (until recently) leaving cities behind. But today the pendulum is swinging back toward urban living, and there are many reasons to believe this swing will continue. As it does, many low-density suburbs and McMansion subdivisions, including some that are lovely and affluent today, may become what inner cities became in the 1960s and ’70s—slums characterized by poverty, crime, and decay."

It is exactly the opposite of Yeats: The center is the only thing that will hold.

And just to pile on a little more dooms-day goodness to the subject, the Sierra Club is going to screen "End of Suburbia: Oil Depletion and the Collapse of The American Dream" this Thursday at 6:30pm at the McIntire Room of the Central Library. It’s free, and the documentary looks at the idea of peak oil at its possible effect on the American suburban lifestyle. I haven’t seen it, but I think I’ll try to check it out.

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