Why cars and walkable communities can peacefully co-existThis short essay talks about the effect of the internet and telecommuting on the future of smart growth and communities.
One of the more interesting paradoxes -- particularly for regions struggling to divine "smart growth" solutions -- is that the more we live and work in cyberspace, the more important real place becomes. While this notion runs counter to much of today's popular literature, we are already seeing the knowledge worker and high-tech, knowledge-sensitive industries migrating to highly livable communities. They are places with mountains or lakes, open spaces, clean air and water, and -- as in the case of Portland, Ore., and other communities that have established urban-growth boundaries -- less reliance on the automobile as the primary mode of transportation.
While agree on the desire for "better places" and peoples' growing focus on neighborhood and community aesthetics as they become affluent, I disagree on that being translated into an anti-car philosophy, which is simply unrealistic in modern society.
I think walkable communities and the car are completely compatible, precisely because their scales are so dramatically different from each other: walking is a 3mph activity, while driving is typically between 30 and 70mph. There is no reason we can't have a metro area with dozens or even hundreds of pedestrian scale "town centers" all connected by a high-speed freeway grid (not running through the middle of the town center, of course). Just because the 8-lane freeway of 610 passes by the city of Bellaire doesn't mean the Bellaire town center can't be made very pedestrian and bike-friendly. This gives the citizens of Bellaire their aesthetically-pleasing small town while still connecting them to the business and career opportunities of a big city, along with the access to restaurants, museums, performing arts, and other big city infrastructure like major hub airports and professional sports. It's a practical compromise of the best of both worlds.