Thursday, July 3, 2008

With the Decline of the Automobile Comes the Decline of the Suburb?

The Globe and Mail was the most recent North American media source to publish evidence of decline of suburbs as rising fuel costs mount.

In Today's suburbs, tomorrow's slums? the Globe reports that "Some warn the cost of gasoline will make the most sprawling U.S. suburbs so unattractive that housing values there will collapse, forcing many people to abandon their homes for urban areas better served by public transit and leaving only squatters, criminals and those who can't afford to leave the outskirts."

While New Brunswick is not regarded as a suburban mecca, we are one of the most rural provinces in the nation and many travel great distances to work on a daily basis. To date our community leaders do not yet see the coming demand for more dense development, better public transit, and services to support a tighter community. Automobile infrastructure is still heavily invested in, gas price reductions an obsession, and sprawl continues uncontrolled.

While the decline of our suburbs is likely over the next few years, it is more likely that home heating will create greater pressure for life changes in New Brunswick. However, unproductive, wasteful commutes will provide frustrations for the incoming working generation that don't want to pay this daily dues and high gas prices may just be the icing on the cake that sends them to the city and away from the suburbs that raised them.


Fred said...

It would be interesting to compare what is happening in North America to other areas where gas has already been this expensive for years (UK and much of continental Europe for example). Has the high price of gas there brought about the end of suburban sprawl? Has it resulted in more people living within the cities? Or just meant more investment in better systems of mass transit?

Jeff said...


Living in a different place than you work is a North American phenomenon so sprawl is our invention and now our problem. It is one of the results of a society that values individual ownership over shared community resources and services. Perhaps this value will move closer to Europe's as well in the coming years?

Morgan said...

Here here! Even though I grew up in the valley, I've really come to realize over the last few years the wastefulness of sprawl and the falacies that exist about city living. I highly recommend the book "Suburban Nation" for a sober second opinion. I hope our upcoming municipal plan revisions will lead the way in this "new" way of thinking.