December 18, 2005

‘We Don’t Really See Our Neighbors So Much Anymore’

What happens when small towns on the fringes of a major metro area turn into exurbs, with new homes being built in sprawling car-centric subdivisions? In Frisco, Texas, "older residents note a subtle change in the pattern of life as subdivisions spread and people spend more time in the car," the New York Times reports in a feature on some Dallas exurbs.

"We don't really see our neighbors so much anymore," Richard Kinnunen, a resident since 1993, told the Times. "We all drive into our back alleys and into our garage, and that's that."

In addition, lengthy commuting times makes it more difficult for many working residents to get involved in community activities.

No surprise. Many residents move out to the edges looking for larger homes and lot sizes, as well as the ever popular "good schools."

You can't make these exurbs closer to cities. You can build them in ways that include enough retail and commercial activity so some residents can find jobs closer to home. You can also make sure that the new development patterns don't emphasize - no, require - the use of an automobile to get anywhere or do anything. There's no reason these communities can't be built in ways that allow SOME things to be done on foot. No, every kid won't be able to walk to school; but new schools tend to be built set back so far from other developments that NO ONE can walk to them. That leads to needless additional traffic, and a reduction in quality of life for everyone.

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