The End of the Suburbs

The End of the Suburbs

The End of the Suburbs

“The government in the past created one American Dream at the expense of almost all others: the dream of a house, a lawn, a picket fence, two children, and a car. But there is no single American Dream anymore.” For nearly 70 years, the suburbs were as American as apple pie. As the middle class ballooned and single-family homes and cars became more affordable, we flocked to pre-fabricated communities in the suburbs, a place where open air and solitude offered a retreat from our dense, polluted cities. Before long, success became synonymous with a private home in a bedroom community complete with a yard, a two-car garage and a commute to the office, and subdivisions quickly blanketed our landscape. But in recent years things have started to change. An epic housing crisis revealed existing problems with this unique pattern of development, while the steady pull of long-simmering economic, societal and demographic forces has culminated in a Perfect Storm that has led to a profound shift in the way we desire to live. In The End of the Suburbs journalist Leigh Gallagher traces the rise and fall of American suburbia from the stately railroad suburbs that sprung up outside American cities in the 19th and early 20th centuries to current-day sprawling exurbs where residents spend as much as four hours each day commuting. Along the way she shows why suburbia was unsustainable from the start and explores the hundreds of new, alternative communities that are springing up around the country and promise to reshape our way of life for the better. Not all suburbs are going to vanish, of course, but Gallagher’s research and reporting show the trends are undeniable. Consider some of the forces at work: The nuclear family is no more: Our marriage and birth rates are steadily declining, while the single-person households are on the rise. Thus, the good schools and family-friendly lifestyle the suburbs promised are increasingly unnecessary. We want out of our cars: As the price of oil continues to rise, the hours long commutes forced on us by sprawl have become unaffordable for many. Meanwhile, today’s younger generation has expressed a perplexing indifference toward cars and driving. Both shifts have fueled demand for denser, pedestrian-friendly communities. Cities are booming. Once abandoned by the wealthy, cities are experiencing a renaissance, especially among younger generations and families with young children. At the same time, suburbs across the country have had to confront never-before-seen rates of poverty and crime. Blending powerful data with vivid on the ground reporting, Gallagher introduces us to a fascinating cast of characters, including the charismatic leader of the anti-sprawl movement; a mild-mannered Minnesotan who quit his job to convince the world that the suburbs are a financial Ponzi scheme; and the disaffected residents of suburbia, like the teacher whose punishing commute entailed leaving home at 4 a.m. and sleeping under her desk in her classroom. Along the way, she explains why understanding the shifts taking place is imperative to any discussion about the future of our housing landscape and of our society itself—and why that future will bring us stronger, healthier, happier and more diverse communities for everyone.

Dead End

Dead End

Dead End

More than five decades have passed since Jane Jacobs wrote her classic The Death and Life of Great American Cities, and since a front page headline in the New York Times read, "Cars Choking Cities as 'Urban Sprawl' Takes Over." Yet sprawl persists, and not by mistake. It happens for a reason. As an activist and a scholar, Benjamin Ross is uniquely placed to diagnose why this is so. Dead End traces how the ideal of a safe, green, orderly retreat where hardworking members of the middle class could raise their children away from the city mutated into the McMansion and strip mall-ridden suburbs of today. Ross finds that sprawl is much more than bad architecture and sloppy planning. Its roots are historical, sociological, and economic. He uses these insights to lay out a practical strategy for change, honed by his experience leading the largest grass-roots mass transit advocacy organization in the United States. The problems of smart growth, sustainability, transportation, and affordable housing, he argues, are intertwined and must be solved as a whole. The two keys to creating better places to live are expansion of rail transit and a more genuinely democratic oversight of land use. Dead End is, ultimately, about the places where we live our lives. Both an engaging history of suburbia and an invaluable guide for today's urbanist, it will serve as a primer for anyone interested in how Americans actually live.

Lone Star Suburbs

Lone Star Suburbs

Lone Star Suburbs

How is it that nearly 90 percent of the Texan population currently lives in metropolitan regions, but many Texans still embrace and promote a vision of their state’s nineteenth-century rural identity? This is one of the questions the editors and contributors to Lone Star Suburbs confront. One answer, they contend, may be the long shadow cast by a Texas myth that has served the dominant culture while marginalizing those on the fringes. Another may be the criticism suburbia has endured for undermining the very romantic individuality that the Texas myth celebrates. From the 1950s to the present, cultural critics have derided suburbs as landscapes of sameness and conformity. Only recently have historians begun to document the multidimensional industrial and ethnic aspects of suburban life as well as the development of multifamily housing, services, and leisure facilities. In Lone Star Suburbs, urban historian Paul J. P. Sandul, Texas historian M. Scott Sosebee, and ten contributors move the discussion of suburbia well beyond the stereotype of endless blocks of white middle-class neighborhoods and fill a gap in our knowledge of the Lone Star State. This collection supports the claim that Texas is not only primarily suburban but also the most representative example of this urban form in the United States. Essays consider transportation infrastructure, urban planning, and professional sports as they relate to the suburban ideal; the experiences of African Americans, Asian Americans, and Latinos in Texas metropolitan areas; and the environmental consequences of suburbanization in the state. Texas is no longer the bastion of rural life in the United States but now—for better or worse—represents the leading edge of suburban living. This important book offers a first step in coming to grips with that reality.

Life and Death in the Roman Suburb

Life and Death in the Roman Suburb

Life and Death in the Roman Suburb

Defined by borders both physical and conceptual, the Roman city stood apart as a concentration of life and activity that was legally, economically, and ritually divided from its rural surroundings. Death was a key area of control, and tombs were relegated outside city walls from the Republican period through Late Antiquity. Given this separation, an unexpected phenomenon marked the Augustan and early Imperial periods: Roman cities developed suburbs, built-up areas beyond their boundaries, where the living and the dead came together in densely urban environments. Life and Death in the Roman Suburb examines these districts, drawing on the archaeological remains of cities across Italy to understand the character of Roman suburbs and to illuminate the factors that led to their rise and decline, focusing especially on the tombs of the dead. Whereas work on Roman cities has tended to pass over funerary material, and research on death has concentrated on issues seen as separate from urbanism, Emmerson introduces a new paradigm, considering tombs within their suburban surroundings of shops, houses, workshops, garbage dumps, extramural sanctuaries, and major entertainment buildings, in order to trace the many roles they played within living cities. Her investigations show how tombs were not passive memorials, but active spaces that facilitated and furthered the social and economic life of the city, where relationships between the living and the dead were an enduring aspect of urban life.

Suburban Nation

Suburban Nation

Suburban Nation

Three members of the Founders of the Congress for the New Urbanism give voice to a growing movement in North America to put an end to suburban sprawl and to replace the automobile-based settlement patterns of the past fifty years with a return to traditional planning principles. Reprint.