The United States is an overwhelmingly suburban country, and there’s a case to be made that suburban America is here to stay. For the past seventy years, most of us have lived our lives in low-density landscapes dominated by single family homes and strip malls, all of which are reached by zipping around in our private automobiles.
While many consider New York City to be our most iconic city, it isn’t exactly representative of most Americans’ way of life – a better example might be Los Angeles, Dallas or Orlando, which are automobile oriented suburban places. Whether our suburban reality is on track to change in the future is heavily disputed by many.
Cities make a comeback
A generation ago, almost every city center in America was in bad shape, after wealth largely left downtown areas and settled in newly built suburban communities. That trend has largely reversed itself, and American downtowns have made a strong comeback economically. Our historic city centers in many corners of the country have regained their vibrancy, and become incredibly liveable places.
Young people, especially the college-educated, have demonstrated their love for walkable cities with our recent migration patterns. Vortexes of employment like New York City and San Francisco have attracted throngs of young people, and even cities that were pronounced dead for all intents and purposes like Pittsburgh, have had their fortunes reversed through an influx of college-educated residents.
But in the midst of our urban renaissance, our suburbs have continued to grow unabated, reaching further and further into rural oblivion. In some places, especially in the Sunbelt, cities are essentially nonstop run-on suburbs.
While experts bicker over how to differentiate an urban environment from a suburban environment for statistical purposes, most agree that new development in America is overwhelmingly suburban. Rapid suburbanization continues, in spite of some wishful thinking from…