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Re: [carfree_cities] Do rail lines encourage sprawl?

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  • Mike Harrington
    The streetcar suburb was different than the highway suburb. Typically what you had were small urban clusters surrounded by single family homes. I think James
    Message 1 of 4 , Oct 27, 2003
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      The streetcar suburb was different than the highway suburb. Typically what
      you had were small urban clusters surrounded by single family homes. I
      think James Howard Kunstler
      http://www.globalpublicmedia.com/INTERVIEWS/JAMES.HOWARD.KUNSTLER/ has the
      best summary of the difference, which I've posted before, but think worth
      repeating:

      "The origins of suburbia in America really come from the fact that our
      cities and towns grew up in tandem with the Industrial Revolution, and all
      of its obnoxious procedures and by-products. And so really, pretty early in
      American history, which is not that long, let's say the mid-nineteenth
      century, just around the 1850's, the idea developed as these towns and
      cities are burgeoning with their factories, that the industrial city is a
      horrible place, and it's really not fit for living in. And as soon as we
      can, we're going to try and get out of it, if we can, and live outside of it
      somehow. And, after the Civil War, the interruption of the Civil War, the
      railroad begins to enable the escape from the city, in the form of the
      railroad suburb. The very first one is actually 1859, or '57, just before
      the Civil War. It was a project called Llewellyn Park in New Jersey. But
      really the next significant one is Riverside, outside of Chicago, begun in,
      I think, 1871 or so, designed by the famous Frederick Law Olmsted, and his
      partner Calvert Vaux. And the idea was they were going to build a whole
      bunch of country manor houses in a kind of a park, nine miles outside of
      downtown Chicago. And that became the prototype for the suburban
      sub-division and the prototype for what would pretty soon become known as
      The American Dream. And that becomes firmly established in the national
      imagination. Everybody who can live outside the horror of the industrial
      city, will. And of course, in the beginning, only the very well off can
      afford to do this."
      "The basic promise of the railroad suburb is: you're going to be able to
      live an urban life in a rural setting. That is, you can work in an office,
      you can work for a corporation, you can be part of the great industrial
      dynamic economy of the late nineteenth century, but you don't have to live
      in it. You can live outside in the tranquil countryside, and back then in
      1871, it really was a countryside. You know, there were no 7-11's in Olmsted
      's Riverside. If you wanted to make a chocolate cake, you literally went out
      to the henhouse, and to the barn, and you got eggs and milk. These people
      did keep chickens and cows. Of course the households were organized in a
      completely different way than they are today: they had servants who did all
      these things. And that was The American Dream - life in the suburbs. And it
      must have been lovely actually, when you think about it, you know, the idea
      of the railroad and later the streetcar suburbs of the late nineteenth and
      early twentieth centuries, the beaux arts, is a lovely, lovely, kind of
      package."

      "The trouble is, it becomes, you know democratized in a certain way after
      the automobile comes in, especially after 1918 after the interruption of the
      1st World War. And the car changes all of that. So really over the next 60,
      70 years, and skipping over the other interruptions of The Great Depression
      and World War II, the suburb goes through this mutation in which it becomes
      something quite different, it's no longer really country living. It becomes
      something more, kind of sinister, and pathetic, and pitiful. It becomes a
      cartoon of country living. In fact, it's a cartoon of a country house, set
      in a cartoon of a rural landscape. And that of course was the great
      unexpressed agony of the suburbs, and it's the reason why the suburbs are so
      easily subject to ridicule, including ridicule on the part of the people who
      actually live in it. They too, recognize that at some level suburbia is
      ridiculous. And I think that what's at the bottom of that is, of course, it
      has not delivered what it promised for, you know, ninety years ago. It's no
      longer country living, this cartoon rural existence. And living in a cartoon
      is just not good enough."



      ----- Original Message -----
      From: "redrobot300" <redrobot300@...>
      To: <carfree_cities@yahoogroups.com>
      Sent: Monday, October 27, 2003 7:46 AM
      Subject: [carfree_cities] Do rail lines encourage sprawl?


      > Hello all,
      > The other day, in a planning history class, my professor put forth
      > the idea that streetcar lines initiated the development of suburban
      > areas. Linear rail expansion was what first enabled people to live
      > farther away from work and, like newly twinned highways, development
      > just beyond the extended end of a line added pressure to extend it
      > further. That said, it would seem that 'sprawl' finds its roots in
      > early streetcar development.
      > Does anyone have opinions or know of books/journal articles that
      > address the relationship between streetcar lines and urban sprawl?
      >
      >
      >
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      >
      >
    • John O. Andersen
      The rail lines encouraged development around the rail stations. That s what we call smart growth today. The development was compact enough for people to live
      Message 2 of 4 , Oct 27, 2003
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        The rail lines encouraged development around the rail stations. That's what we call smart growth today. The development was compact enough for people to live within walking distance of the train station.

        That's a huge difference from car based sprawl.


        John O. Andersen
        Unconventional Ideas:
        Counter-Mainstream Thoughts on Living Meaningfully in the 21st Century
        http://www.unconventionalideas.com

        ----- Original Message -----
        From: redrobot300
        To: carfree_cities@yahoogroups.com
        Sent: Monday, October 27, 2003 5:46 AM
        Subject: [carfree_cities] Do rail lines encourage sprawl?


        Hello all,
        The other day, in a planning history class, my professor put forth
        the idea that streetcar lines initiated the development of suburban
        areas. Linear rail expansion was what first enabled people to live
        farther away from work and, like newly twinned highways, development
        just beyond the extended end of a line added pressure to extend it
        further. That said, it would seem that 'sprawl' finds its roots in
        early streetcar development.
        Does anyone have opinions or know of books/journal articles that
        address the relationship between streetcar lines and urban sprawl?



        To Post a message, send it to: carfree_cities@...
        To Unsubscribe, send a blank message to: carfree_cities-unsubscribe@...
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        [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
      • Mike Neuman
        ... That s what we call smart growth today. The development was compact enough for people to live within walking distance of the train station. ... The
        Message 3 of 4 , Oct 28, 2003
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          --- In carfree_cities@yahoogroups.com, "John O. Andersen"
          <editor@u...> wrote:
          > The rail lines encouraged development around the rail stations.
          That's what we call smart growth today. The development was compact
          enough for people to live within walking distance of the train
          station.
          >
          > That's a huge difference from car based sprawl.

          The problem today is that the suburban communities and sprawling
          areas of development around most larger cities are simply not well
          suited for rail development. The areas are already put together
          assuming auto use will continue as the only method of travel. Those
          areas are urban sprawl in my book.

          I suspect if communter rail goes into an undeveloped area today, the
          way things are now anyway, that the future residents would demand
          parking lots in the vicinity of the boarding stations, and highways
          to drive on to get to the stations. So if only the accomodations for
          auto use are provided, that will encourage sprawl development for
          miles and miles around the stations, to be sure.

          It might even encourage more sprawl than had the commuter trains not
          been provided, since living out there would be made more convenient.
          People would not have to put up with driving in the thick of
          congestion every morning and late afternoon.

          It might reduce the auto congestion traveling into and out of the
          metro area -- but people would still be driving lots of miles from
          their newly developed sprawling enclaves to the train stations.
          Consequently, the problems of urban sprawl and auto emissions would
          remain and perhaps even increase with the commuter rail.

          But if the governmental entities in the area where the rail line is
          going in allow only natural (non-motorized) transport to the
          stations, then the commuter rail would not be sprawl-inducing.
          People would have to build closer to the rail stations -- not way out
          in Sprawlsville, USA.

          So my definition of sprawl is development which requires
          motorized travel on a regular basis by those who live there. It's
          based on miles of motorized travel required per week. Consequently,
          areas that accomodate only motorized travel are, by
          definition, "urban sprawl" in my book. Areas that are developed
          primarily for non-motorized (natural?) travel (tighter development),
          are the traditional, non-sprawl encouraging types of development.
        • hcfdave
          No facilities for $^(%ing car parking should be provided by public money of any sort- Not doing so will save enough money to support lower fares for public
          Message 4 of 4 , Nov 1, 2003
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            No facilities for $^(%ing car parking should be provided by
            public money of any sort- Not doing so will save enough money
            to support lower fares for public transit for a long time.
            The free marketeers can step in and build parking facilites if
            they want, but they should receive no tax breaks of any kind of
            support! In fact, they must be taxed extra for the extra pollution
            and unlivable conditions their clients cause! Through such
            forethought and action to ensure fairness, sprawl will be kept
            under control naturally.
            DaveS
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