Friday, October 23, 2009

Thoughts On The Coming Reset

Earlier this month I posted about how I am not ready to face the coming lifestyle of $5+ fuel prices. I don't think that the rest of us are either. Wendy Waters of All About Cities then had this giving two scenarios possible for cities in the event of nearly $8 gas.

Wendy starts off with this interesting question.
Will the city be able to offer the housing, transportation options or amenities that its residents may prefer if fuel becomes a more expensive item relative to the family budget?
My question is "Will the city be able to provide enough housing or transportation that the population needs in the event of such a situation?". Will there be the expected new technologies and will they come with their own set of inherent problems, some of which will become evident as we get down the road(so to speak)?

I have started to become concerned that way too many of us have decided to live well beyond the reasonable commuting distance of the future. That and we have not put into place any good alternatives to the primary chosen mode of transportation, the automobile. Somehow , we have let ourselves be persuaded to separate ourselves from our sources of income by time and distance to the extent that now, reducing that gap may bring societal upheaval. The farther the distance the greater the possible upheaval.

Commerce has always followed the population, but in recent years, with the growth of "big box" mega-stores, the interval between commercial nodes has become bigger and the possibility of walking is nearing remote. This may be attributed to zoning as well as population growth. The original concept of zoning was to separate noxious uses from residential areas, but as we became accustomed to the idea, our definitions of what to separate became more and more strict. We are now nearly to the point of having walls between single-family and duplexes or townhouses.

In any case, the budget battle between housing costs and transportation costs, our two largest monthly outlays, will have to waged , much to the chagrin of the majority of our populace.

Suppose the Wendy's second scenario is what comes to be, how will we fare here in Lexington, Ky.? We will not have time to change all of our cars to burn alternate fuels, nor will we have the luxury of installing a meaningful mass transit system. Despite all the warnings and lead time(the gas crisis of the '70s) and the examples of the Europeans and Japanese, we have mostly believed that it just can't happen here. Will the re-purposing of our subdivisions work their way out in ripples of waves or from the outer edges in in a flood of more urban style development around our major roadway intersections? At that point, will those intersections become the new "civic centers" for the provision of necessary government services, the schools, the post office, the light rail station, much like the old corner store but on a larger scale?

I don't have any of these answers and Wendy, as well as I, is willing to hear your thought on this matter.

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