Are "walkable communities" the way of the future?
Walkable communities seem counterintuitive to "progress" since they effectively return us back to how life was a while ago.. but they make a lot of sense to me -- that way we would rely less on cars/oil/consumable resources, plus there would be less pollution. There are some drawbacks, of course, but we need to do something to fix this environmental mess. Do you think that there will be a return to communities that are more pedestrian-friendly than vehicle-friendly? Or do you think we have become too reliant on cars, such that people would refuse to accept such a change? Could it work if it is a gradual change? Also, do you know of any cities/towns that are already enacting this type of change, or new places being built that incorporate "walkability"?
I think they are a great idea. It isn't going to happen in every sector in every city however, simply because the existing infrastructure is already in place, and those who choose to live in surburbia will continue to so, and be reliant on cars. I do think there is a shift towards cities (at least mine, and others in western Canada) developing walkable communities. It reduces the need for the city to build and maintain large infrastructure developments - so they come out ahead both financially and logistically. For example, if a walkable neighbourhood is developed (consisting mainly of high density condos, row-housing, houses on small lots), fewer roads have to be built and maintained for the same number of people that would be living in a sprawling suburb. People would shop, eat, socialize in their area, without the need to leave frequently. Similarly, fewer kilometers/miles of sewer lines, water pipes, electrical cables...etc have to be installed. Furthermore, often these areas are developed in decaying city cores (in an effort to revitalize the area) and so often the city can use existing infrastructure, reducing their costs. Win- win for everyone! It's interesting because many European cities have very walkable communities - simply because they were established that way to begin with, just as you mentioned. Of course, there are communities that were built around the suburban sprawl concept but it's not quite as prevalent as it is in North America or Australia. Similarly, in eastern Canada (Montreal, Halifax, even Toronto and Ottawa - and Vancouver (western Canada)) there are numerous 'walkable communities'. They were also established prior to the idea that suburban homes were the North American dream. I live in Edmonton, Alberta, which is a relatively new city in comparison to cities like Montreal, Quebec city..etc. I have noticed that there is a shift, though slow, of people beginning to repopulate the downtown core, myself included. My fiance and I moved into an area that was one of the original, settled areas of Edmonton. There are old homes (100 yrs+) on relatively small lots. Over the course of about 40 years, this area became the seedy area of town as the middle class abandoned the core and move to the suburbs. Recently however, with the cost of petrol, taxes...etc, middle class folks have been moving back into the area, revitalizing it. There are city plans all around my community, to build high-density condos, with store fronts on the street level. Furthermore, there is an old city centre airport that is likely going to be shut down (since we have an international one outside the city). There are ideas floating around to build low-rise apts, townhouses and more condos in on this airport land, to make it a completely walkable community. The city plans to extend our Light Rapid Transit train to that community to reduce the usage of cars into the downtown core (you could actually walk to the downtown in about 30min from that area). So, yes, some cities are planning such developments. Even in my area (mainly houses and row-houses, about 20min walking distance to the core) the city is giving grants to stores to renovate their facades, which in turn encourages people to shop in the area, and brings new business into the area. Many, many great (and very diverse) stores have opened up in my walkable area. We don't need to leave for anything except for a hardware store. (My neighbours and I have discussed this at length and there is a consensus that if some hardware store came into the area, they would make a killing, what with all the home renovations that are going on in the neighbourhood!). I realize that many people will be resistant to the change because it's new to them. Once the buildings are there though, they will be lived in. Sure, those resistant to the change will continue to live in suburbia, which is fine since they are already there, and it would be a waste if those areas were no longer used. The next generations however, are the ones that will embrace 'walkable communities'. It's only going to be more expensive to live when they grow up; to buy houses, to buy cars, to eat..etc. If we can put the building blocks in place this generation, they will be more accepting of it in future generations. Also, I think the next generations are going to be much less reliant on cars simply because they won't be affordable to many 'middle class' households. Already car costs (including to buy, insure, and run) take up a higher percentage of the average middle class family's income than 25 years ago! Let's get walkable communities and relevant infrastructure (transit, piping..etc) in place now so that when it's really needed, there is little panic and scrambling. Sorry I rambled. I just think it's going to be required in the future, whether people like it or not. The 'North American dream' of having 2+ vehicles, a large house on a large lot and big box stores
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