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Suburban Dream Or Nightmare?

One of the many things I love about Provo is how close and connected everything is by bike. We have a great grid system which allows you to access all of Provo with just a few straight lines and turns. Having spent a lot of years in Las Vegas I am more than familiar with dead end cul de sac’s, closed communities, and general lack of connection. As a cyclist there is almost nothing worst than following a road which should lead through and does not. You end up going in circles until you give up and decide to brave what is usually a busy and unsafe arterial. Living in a suburban community also brings a sense of frustration every time you have to reach for the car keys just to go get a snack or rent a movie. But the draw is that you just can not beat the price of suburban housing, right? According to a new study that was recently released by Better Cities and Towns you may actually be paying a lot more to live away from town in these ‘communities’ than if you were to locate closer to your work/life.

The study breaks down some representative cities from all over the nation and assess different areas in those cities. It also takes into account median household income and what percentage of you income is eaten up by housing, and what percentage of your income is eaten up by transportation. Dense cities such as New York, San Francisco, and DC faired pretty well as far as percentage of income going to transportation vs percentage going to housing. More sprawled out and suburban areas did not bide well at all. For example in Fayetteville Arkansas you are likely to spend twice as much on transportation than on housing. In other words living in an area as unconnected and sprawled as Fayetteville you are paying your housing costs (rent/mortgage) three times over annually just to live and drive to work.

Moral of the story? Do not waste money and time building unconnected far away ‘communities.’ Instead cities should be planned to grow around the bicycle and walking scale, with smart design, and complete streets. The returns can be huge economically and socially. Sprawled planning and growth is not good for the people who would potentially move in, and it is not good for the cities where these people work. Ride where you live, live where you work, love where you ride.

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