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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
"To see what I’m talking about, consider where I am at the moment: in a pleasant, middle-class neighborhood consisting mainly of four- or five-story apartment buildings, with easy access to public transit and plenty of local shopping.

It’s the kind of neighborhood in which people don’t have to drive a lot, but it’s also a kind of neighborhood that barely exists in America, even in big metropolitan areas. Greater Atlanta has roughly the same population as Greater Berlin — but Berlin is a city of trains, buses and bikes, while Atlanta is a city of cars, cars and cars."

- Paul Krugman, NY Times

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Paul Krugman's column in today's New York Times looks at today's gas prices going through the stratosphere and how energy issues will be dominating our future: the age of cheap oil is over.

Forget Peoria. How will it play in Chicago?

Consider the following:

• How do you see the high cost of fuel reorganizing both physically and functionally how Chicagoland operates?

• Do you see a recentering on Chicago, our area's core, the most energy efficient community in our metropolitan area. Will Chicago regain ascendency over suburbia?

• Will outer suburbia and exurbia wither and will close in, first ring suburbs be our success stories. Will Evanston and Oak Park look more attractive than Schaumburg or Naperville?


What will the new Chicagoland look like when filling her up requires a bank loan?
 

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As fuel rises and the RTA system improves, I see a generous increase in ridership. Maybe increase in frequency of train runs from the burbs and CTA. Overall, nothing to blow you away. I also think TOD will increase. I think more Pace lines will connect people to the Metra systems.

I think a lot of major businesses are moving downtown and will continue to do so like BP and United. I think companies will value that people can take the train to work instead of driving through sprawl more so than ever.

I think Evanston and Oak Park are already more attractive than Schaumburg and Naperville. Although I heard that more people commute INTO DuPage County for work that commute out of it. But we are already seeing that Will County, McHenry County, Kane County, and Lake County are all struggling with the housing market more than anyone and I do not expect that to get any better. The only major market I see for thse counties are retirees (which is a major market). But I see more retirees selling off their single family homes and moving into either assisted living or into a condo (mostly downtown).
 

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The City
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Chicago's downtown still has ascendency over suburbia. When did that go away? In fact, I would argue that Chicago's downtown pretty much has ascendency over the entire state, including Springfield.

Any time a major Govt official makes any announcement, has a major meeting, etc it's always in some hotel in downtown Chicago. All of the political rallies are downtown, all of the courts, the major tourist & cultural attractions, and a major chunk of the high-paying jobs.

That having been said, to address your question I think we are already seeing that happening. 120+ highrises have gone up in Chicago since 1999, and the vast majority of them residential. Also, the vast majority have been in the central area. While this is still a trickle compared to the residential growth in the suburbs, it is evidence that there is a certain population of people that wants to be in the central city.

And yes, I do think that a lot of suburbs will become the slums of the next generation, while some (those that are closer in with better transit access) will remain stable. Even worse, I think some suburbs won't even become slums--they will simply be reclaimed by nature.
 

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The City
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I'll also add that in my line of work I'll almost certainly be forced to work in a suburban area, or else take a lower salary & suffer a brutally busy work environment (which I deal with right now in urban Queens).

But despite my sealed suburban fate, I've already decided that, as a young dude, I will be very picky about where I buy my first home. I don't see a good future for real estate in suburban areas that are far from resources and which lack good transit access. In fact, I would say if you're buying such real estate now you're throwing money down a well.

My parents have a wonderful home in a cul-de-sac far away from everything in small-town Michigan; I have already begun pressuring them to sell it before its value begins to erode.
 

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Oh, sure. I think we all remember how much Chicago was revitalized the last time (1973-79) there was a big increase in energy prices. How people just flocked back into the city, how much Loop employment grew, how the CTA and Metra thrived, how tumbleweeds blew through the streets of Schaumburg and Downers Grove.
 

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The City
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Oh, sure. I think we all remember how much Chicago was revitalized the last time (1973-79) there was a big increase in energy prices. How people just flocked back into the city, how much Loop employment grew, how the CTA and Metra thrived, how tumbleweeds blew through the streets of Schaumburg and Downers Grove.
^ You've brought up the 70's energy crisis before, but without acknowledging the key difference between that and what is happening today. Then was the transition from America being self energy-reliant to relying on plentiful supplies from OPEC countries. Now is the real issue of there being a global limit of oil supplies.

You rest your case with the 70's crisis every time, without acknowledging that there is no way in hell a nation's going to reorient its entire infrastructure, transportation, and housing patterns in 6 short years. Do you simply not accept that we are facing a completely different and much, much longer-term crisis than the one we faced back then?

When the car was invented and people began to move in droves to the suburbs, it was still a good 50 years before city populations began to decline, and a good 60 or 70 years before American downtowns lost their preeminence to suburbs as the center of the region. Change takes a lot of time.

But regardless of how one tries to pitch the case for suburbia, we simply have to contend with an inevitable problem that is more real today than it has ever been before. The math doesn't work out--it cannot and will not be sustained, and I do not buy into the myth of the "magical" replacement for oil. It won't happen.

You once argued that Pandora's box (or some analogy as such) was opened when private motoring came into existence, and I largely agree with you. But as I've said before and will say again, this will be seen more and more as a luxury. Your average joe will not have 4 cars (one for pop, ma, junior and sis). Eventually, I really do believe that metropolitan areas will become dense enough & there will be a reinvestment in transit, and people will not complain about dumping their cars because they will not view them as necessary.
 

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Do you simply not accept that we are facing a completely different and much, much longer-term crisis than the one we faced back then?
Um, no. At the time, we also thought we were facing a wrenching, permanent change in how society would have to be ordered. When the real price of energy went up, oddly enough, we found more of it.

People moved to warmer climates (not a good thing for Chicago), put in more insulation, built windowless schools, bought smaller cars, and moved their offices closer to where they lived in the suburbs. What they didn't do was completely change their lifestyles or living patterns. In planning classes at the time, we confidently predicted that they would: that $2/gallon gas would send people scurrying back to the inner city and end sprawl forever. Turns out that "it's tough to make predictions, especially about the future."
 

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The City
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Um, no. At the time, we also thought we were facing a wrenching, permanent change in how society would have to be ordered. When the real price of energy went up, oddly enough, we found more of it.

People moved to warmer climates (not a good thing for Chicago), put in more insulation, built windowless schools, bought smaller cars, and moved their offices closer to where they lived in the suburbs. What they didn't do was completely change their lifestyles or living patterns. In planning classes at the time, we confidently predicted that they would: that $2/gallon gas would send people scurrying back to the inner city and end sprawl forever. Turns out that "it's tough to make predictions, especially about the future."
^ It doesn't matter if for 6 years people thought things would change forever, all of which was for nought because gas was suddenly 79 cents per gallon once again. Are we going to throw away our homes, our highways, our malls, our communities overnight?

But where's the rescue this time? Expand that process you described from 6 years to 60, across multiple generations (less likely to cling onto older ways of living). Pull out your calculator right now and do the math: given rising global demand and diminishing supply, go ahead and explain to me where the energy for ubiquitous American motoring is going to come from.
 

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The suburbs will always continue to thrive as the greed and selfishness of people will always drive demand. They want 2 car garages, they want their own property with their own lawn, they want a lot of space, and God forbid anyone would ever want to share a living space in a giant building with "strangers." Technology has driven SOME people to this personal isolationist movement. Now, with that said, I also believe there are more and more people who want to be smart rather than stupid, and I believe this generation of college students and young professionals understands this as they see their parents struggle because of their suburban lifestyles. I believe there is great hope in this generation for Chicago to not only continue to grow and thrive, but to have sustainable growth and improvements. The city is completely different than what it was just ten years ago in many regards. It's the hot thing to do now: move to the city after school, find a job, live more within one's means and use the public transit instead of using a car, which costs a lot of money, which uses a lot of gas, which also costs a lot of money, and also hurts the environment tremendously in an age where most of society has finally been enlightened about being stewards of the environment. The suburbs will always be there, but the sprawl will slow down or even come to a hault for a while. The city is the new hot spot, and I will continue to place my bets on Chicago. If you look at property values, they have remained surprisingly stable considering the relatively high surplus of housing in the city right now. This is a very good sign from a real-estate standpoint, and boasts well for our local economy. The rate of urban sprawl will drop as the rate of new city dwellers increases, and over time it will yield results that we cannot even predict at this time.
 

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where's the rescue this time?
In human ingenuity, as it always is. Malthus, it turns out, was wrong.

explain to me where the energy for ubiquitous American motoring is going to come from.
I don't know yet. We never know beforehand. Some will come from using current petroleum stocks more efficiently (hybrids, smaller cars) as the price rises. Some will come from different sources (natural gas, coal, nuclear, solar, wind) as various nonmotoring demands are shifted to those. Some will come from human ingenuity unlocking the Alberta tar sands or Colorado oil shale.

But to claim that we will surrender personal mobility as petroleum prices rise is like claiming we would give up freedom of the press if newsprint got more expensive. Petroleum just happens to be the way we run those machines today. It's not the only way.
 

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How quickly will local zoning laws adapt to expected increases in demand for more units 'closer in', as well as for expected increases in demand for all of the typical services needed by such increases in neighborhood population? Just trying to get that apartment/condo tower in Evanston built is a lesson to consider.

Mike
 

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People moved to warmer climates (not a good thing for Chicago), put in more insulation, built windowless schools, bought smaller cars, and moved their offices closer to where they lived in the suburbs. What they didn't do was completely change their lifestyles or living patterns.
It's not like nothing changed over the long term. Gentrification, or as it was called then, "the back to the city movement" first began in earnest; many U.S. cities saw new or expanded transit systems as gas-tax diversions began; countless ten-speed bicycles were sold. (They're so retro, they're newly fashionable.)

I know that anyone saying "this time, it's different" should be ignored, but many confounding factors are also at work now. We build on the gains started in the 1970s and adapt those to new realities.

- A long-term demographic shift towards smaller households, due to a dearth of new families. The 1980s and 1990s saw a huge number of new Baby Boomer families seeking large houses in the suburbs. The next big baby boomlet isn't due for several years, and will be of much smaller magnitude.
- Severe imbalance of both energy supply and demand. The OPEC oil embargo was precipitated by a temporary, political problem. Geology and booming demand from developing nations are not going away anytime soon.
- Much lower urban crime rates and vastly improved race relations have decreased the fear of cities that fed population losses in the 1970s and 1980s.
- Exponentially worse traffic congestion has turned driving into a chore for many.
- Surpluses of suburban housing, office, and retail in much of the country, admittedly based on anecdotal reports of mortgage troubles out in the burbs.
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
^ You've brought up the 70's energy crisis before, but without acknowledging the key difference between that and what is happening today. Then was the transition from America being self energy-reliant to relying on plentiful supplies from OPEC countries. Now is the real issue of there being a global limit of oil supplies.

You rest your case with the 70's crisis every time, without acknowledging that there is no way in hell a nation's going to reorient its entire infrastructure, transportation, and housing patterns in 6 short years. Do you simply not accept that we are facing a completely different and much, much longer-term crisis than the one we faced back then?

When the car was invented and people began to move in droves to the suburbs, it was still a good 50 years before city populations began to decline, and a good 60 or 70 years before American downtowns lost their preeminence to suburbs as the center of the region. Change takes a lot of time.

But regardless of how one tries to pitch the case for suburbia, we simply have to contend with an inevitable problem that is more real today than it has ever been before. The math doesn't work out--it cannot and will not be sustained, and I do not buy into the myth of the "magical" replacement for oil. It won't happen.

You once argued that Pandora's box (or some analogy as such) was opened when private motoring came into existence, and I largely agree with you. But as I've said before and will say again, this will be seen more and more as a luxury. Your average joe will not have 4 cars (one for pop, ma, junior and sis). Eventually, I really do believe that metropolitan areas will become dense enough & there will be a reinvestment in transit, and people will not complain about dumping their cars because they will not view them as necessary.
very realistic, Urban. and you are correct. there is no correlation between the 1970's and today. What is happening to oil today is global, we are at about at peak usage, environmental issues are more are a concern today, and the US position in the realm of global oil is far more compromised.

This is a fundamentally different era. Not only will the price of oil that fuels big homes and big cars in suburbia be compromised, but the availability will make us deal with equity issues and a person who owns an 8,000 s.f. home in Oak Brook, Barrington Hills, or Lake Forest will be facing social pressures that could well translate into legal pressures to justify their unfair use of a very scarce necessity.

That this is a watershed point in our history is virtually impossible to escape.
 

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Discussion Starter · #14 ·
The suburbs will always continue to thrive as the greed and selfishness of people will always drive demand. They want 2 car garages, they want their own property with their own lawn, they want a lot of space, and God forbid anyone would ever want to share a living space in a giant building with "strangers."
Chitowner, I have no doubt the desire you have identified will be there, as always. But the practicality and even feasability of the issue will overwhelm anyone who tries to pull off the impossible. My assumpition? Availability (or lack there of) trumps desirability and people will go kicking and screaming but on their own accord to a more conserving life style.
 

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Discussion Starter · #15 ·
It's not like nothing changed over the long term. Gentrification, or as it was called then, "the back to the city movement" first began in earnest; many U.S. cities saw new or expanded transit systems as gas-tax diversions began; countless ten-speed bicycles were sold. (They're so retro, they're newly fashionable.)

I know that anyone saying "this time, it's different" should be ignored, but many confounding factors are also at work now. We build on the gains started in the 1970s and adapt those to new realities.

- A long-term demographic shift towards smaller households, due to a dearth of new families. The 1980s and 1990s saw a huge number of new Baby Boomer families seeking large houses in the suburbs. The next big baby boomlet isn't due for several years, and will be of much smaller magnitude.
- Severe imbalance of both energy supply and demand. The OPEC oil embargo was precipitated by a temporary, political problem. Geology and booming demand from developing nations are not going away anytime soon.
- Much lower urban crime rates and vastly improved race relations have decreased the fear of cities that fed population losses in the 1970s and 1980s.
- Exponentially worse traffic congestion has turned driving into a chore for many.
- Surpluses of suburban housing, office, and retail in much of the country, admittedly based on anecdotal reports of mortgage troubles out in the burbs.
you nailed it, paytonc: we were destined to kill the suburban dream from the time we poured into them en masse after WWII. Did we really think those bucolic towns on the computer rail lines and the farms-into-subdivisons that started in earnest when the soldiers came home wouldn't morph into a sprawling, traffic congested, strip malled mess.
 

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Anecdotal, but for what it's worth: At breakfast a retired high school coach told me his son and his wife live in a suburb but commute to the city daily in separate vehicles. Last month's gas bill exceeded $500 dollars. Should that continue upward, perhaps a move into the city would become financially attractive from several points of view. Only time will tell.
 

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Discussion Starter · #17 ·
Anecdotal, but for what it's worth: At breakfast a retired high school coach told me his son and his wife live in a suburb but commute to the city daily in separate vehicles. Last month's gas bill exceeded $500 dollars. Should that continue upward, perhaps a move into the city would become financially attractive from several points of view. Only time will tell.
there are so many pragmatic reasons why we live where we live that go far past the choice of city or suburban lifestyle. I live in suburbia and I hardly would have designed this current vision from hell if I had been an urban planner. I live in suburbia for practical reasons and, yes, there are elements about it I like.

we're heading into an era when the pragmatic will lead the way and "location, location, location" will translate into what it most economically feasible. The decision about whether that young couple will stay in the suburbs or move into the city may well be decided by factors beyond their control.

Frumie, do you know if they gave any consideration to moving to a place like Evanston which will give them real and reasonable city access but still keep them in a place that mixes suburbia with urban?
 

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The City
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In human ingenuity, as it always is. Malthus, it turns out, was wrong.
^ So you've given in to "faith". That's not the first time that has happened in human history


I don't know yet. We never know beforehand. Some will come from using current petroleum stocks more efficiently (hybrids, smaller cars) as the price rises. Some will come from different sources (natural gas, coal, nuclear, solar, wind) as various nonmotoring demands are shifted to those. Some will come from human ingenuity unlocking the Alberta tar sands or Colorado oil shale.

But to claim that we will surrender personal mobility as petroleum prices rise is like claiming we would give up freedom of the press if newsprint got more expensive. Petroleum just happens to be the way we run those machines today. It's not the only way.
^ Apparently, your generation has gotten so used to having its own way that it has forgotten one key element: economics.

Deceptive at it is, the world is driven more by economics than by what people want; a reality that Americans have not had to face in a long while.

Humans have likely dreamed about a world in which there is ample privacy, space, and easy mobility for thousands of years. It only became available when this black goop from the earth that was the equivalent gift of 1000 slaves for each person game into existence recently. Woe to us, that black goop has become far too expensive & incredibly coveted of late in parts of the world which we depend on.

Spin it the way you wish. I want to relax and enjoy life, but reality forces me to work 40+ hours a week to pay my bills. I don't get to have what I want, no matter how hard I will it. We will not continue to have a rapidly growing society in which everybody drives their own car , no matter how you rationalize it. Dream away, but the black goop will never be replaced and any attempt to do so will be short lived and futile.
 

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That's a remarkable gift you young whippersnappers have, to be able to predict the future with such certainty.

Funny thing about economics. It's not a zero-sum game. Just because people in other countries get richer, it doesn't make us poorer. In fact, it generally works the other way around. Worldwide prosperity creates even greater prosperity.
 

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The City
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That's a remarkable gift you young whippersnappers have, to be able to predict the future with such certainty.

Funny thing about economics. It's not a zero-sum game. Just because people in other countries get richer, it doesn't make us poorer. In fact, it generally works the other way around. Worldwide prosperity creates even greater prosperity.
^ Granted. But what can we do with oil? It's a limited resource that we have been squandering recklessly for a very long time. Can we afford to not be less wasteful in the upcoming decades? I just think that holding out for some imaginary seemless transition to another energy source is a very poor strategy.
 
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