Streetsblogposted a piece called "sprawl madness" about two houses with adjoining backyards in suburban Orlando. "If you want to travel the streets from point A on Anna Catherine Drive to point B on Summer Rain Drive, which are only 50 feet apart, you’ll have to go a minimum of seven miles. The trip would take almost twenty minutes in a car, according to Google Maps." This may be an extreme case, but the situation is not unusual in recently built suburbs. Early suburbs were curvilinear and less dense than cities, but their streets were mostly well connected. Over the decades, planners and engineers, aided and abetted by NIMBY attitudes, severed every connection possible until we get to the current absurdity illustrated here. This neighborhood in Orlando, mostly built out, has a Walk Score of 12 and average block size of 69 acres. From social connections to sustainability, health to livability, walking/bicycling to transit, everything is harder in such a place. Getting back to a connected network in the suburbs may require time travel — or at least decades of reverse engineering.
I made a startling discovery : the virtues and ethics that underlie the construction of sustainable places and buildings and the virtues and ethics that I believe will underlie business in the age that is now dawning are exactly the same.
Climate change has been back in the news lately due to Hurricane Sandy. Urban designer and former director of the National Endowment for the Arts Jeff Speck, author of the recently published Walkable City, makes the case that smart growth is a key strategy for addressing this issue. In an excerpt published in Salon from his book, Speck explains why compact cities generate far less carbon per person. Although a place like Manhattan generates the fewest carbon emissions per person, communities don't need to build at 200 units per acre to make a difference. Studies show that the maximum benefit is achieved simply by going from low-density suburbia to a walkable neighborhood — about 20 units per acre, he explains. "In each case, increasing density from two units per acre to 20 units per acre resulted in about the same savings as the increase from 20 to 200," Speck says. Such changes can also result in higher quality of life and lower transportation costs, he says.