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The End of Sprawl, Continued

Here’s yet another story, this one from The Wall Street Journal, predicting the demise of sprawl. Since gas prices have spiked, there have been more than a few predictions that high commuting costs will lead to the end of the exurbs. I’ve wondered about that possibility, too.

From the Journal:

Even families who sought the suburbs or were priced out of cities now have an economic imperative to find their way back closer to town. Transportation is the second-biggest household expense, after housing, and suburban families face a relatively greater gas burden. At the same time, distant suburbs, or exurbs, where housing growth was predicated on cheap gas, have experienced the biggest declines in home values in the past year, according to a May report by CEOs for Cities, a nonprofit group of public- and private-sector officials that seeks to promote urban areas. “The gas-price spike popped the housing bubble,” said Joe Cortright, the report’s author.

Maybe so. But I’m sticking with the perspective of urban planner Joel Kotkin, who has been following this far longer than many people. I mentioned in an earlier post that Kotkin reminded me that we should always remember our history when we’re writing about the future. The suburbs, he noted, were declared dead in the 1970s, because of high energy costs. Yet they not only survived, they expanded to become a permanent part of the landscape, at least so far.

It’s intriguing to imagine changes in neighborhoods and communities, and in the quality of everyday life, should urban, high-density living become more desirable. And imagine if suburbs and exurbs begin emptying out or transforming themselves into something else entirely. But so far, that’s all it is - imagining - because it will be a long time before we’ll know whether any of it actually will occur. The notion of the end of the exurbs is so popular right now it’s almost accepted as a reality. But we’re not there yet, and we’re not even all that close.

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