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My mother is always telling me that when she was in school 50 years ago you didn’t dare get into trouble at school because your schoolmates were your neighbors and everybody that lived in your neighborhood knew everybody else. If you did something in school your parents would know about by word of mouth before you got home in the afternoon.

Entire communities used to be this way- populations were small enough so that public opinion, as it were, could act as a break on bad behavior. But now communities are so large that being a member gives you some degree of anonymity- you can do just about whatever you want to do without worrying about what your neighbors, coworkers, classmates or even the members of your church or club will think- most of these people may not even know your name.

I understand the concepts of new urbanism as far as mixed-use neighborhoods and controlling traffic patterns go, but has anyone ever tried to apply population dynamics to new urbanism? Is there such a thing as an ideal sized neighborhood, classroom, school, church etcetera?

Also, have there been any studies as to what kinds of commercial activity should be allowed in what size community? Is there some point where a population of a given size is small enough to maintain its societal cohesion while being large enough to support certain types of commercial activity? What types of stores should go in a neighborhood as opposed to a shopping center/mall or downtown region?

And, have there been any studies explaining people’s willingness to use public transportation? How far would most people be willing to walk to a bus stop and how long would they be willing to wait for the bus to arrive and how long are they willing to ride the bus and how many transfers are they willing to make to get to their destination?
 

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Journeyman
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The first part is more about population size, lack of moving (meaning living in the same area for a generation at least), and housewives, and less about urban form.

If you plunk new urbanism into an existing metro, you're still in a metro, and people won't constrain their lives to the boundaries of the NU district. Well, they might a bit more if it successfully mixes jobs and housing, but there will still be tons of people going in and out daily.

You can make a good NU district by providing the right amount of retail space so that most needs are nearby and ideally walkable. Of course a prescription is always difficult at best...a real community is adaptable.
 
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