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sean mcdaniel

sam,

seriously, no one is forcing anyone to buy a hummer or escalade or an element. just as most people aren't coerced into buying a 3,200 sq ft home for a family of three. in most cases, the people buying the "mcmansions and hummers" tend to have a good deal of money they earn from jobs that carry a lot of responsibility. Those people might be lawyers, doctors, pilots, army offices (athletes, too, but there aren't enough of them around here to account for the number of SUVs and huge homes). do you really think those type of persons are that gullible?

on the other hand, it seems to me that most of the people who rail against SUVs and monster homes really can't afford them. What's really the difference between a 3,200 sq ft home in shadyside and one in cranberry? you might say the cranberry owner must drive his car miles and miles a day to reach work...but more and more people in cranberry (and places like it) live closer to their jobs than a lot of city residents. and that mcmansion in cranberry might be about 90 percent more energy efficient than a drafty old shadyside pile of bricks.

and just about wherever you might live in the city, food shopping pretty much requires a car to carry the load...just as it does in the suburbs.

please don't take this as a defense of cranberry. i don't like the place one bit. but ask anyone in allentown or brookline or brighton heights what they pay to Columbia Gas during the winter months and the answer's likely to be $400 or more...even for a modest size home. yet, a friend of mine has a 3,200 sq ft home in cranberry and pays no more than $200 during the winter. he may not be urban, but he's certainly greener than that city dweller burning up fuel and budget to heat his home.

the point is, people drive the cars and live in the homes they want and can afford.

Sam M

Sean,

I think that's true to a large extent. Although it does not take into account John's objection (and it is one echoed throughout the larger discussion) that people living out in the exurbs only do so because widespread social mismanagement hides the true costs of their decisions. And forces those costs on unwitting dupes.

Thing is, I am not at all sure where that stands now. I think it was probably more true way back when when certain policies chased people out of cities. (Again, on the other hand, I think there was a lot about cities that people wanted to flee anyway. Cities are famous for museums and restaurants and other forms of social vitality. And rightly so. But they are also rightly famous for crowding and tenements and crime. And so it goes.)

As we have seen , people ar beginning to question the expansion of roads. And they are beginning to expect developers to pitch in for the cost of development. So it's very complex.

But at the end of the day, I think I come down pretty near where you do on this. Sure, there are some market-schewing policies still in place. But absent those, there are still a lot (A LOT) of people who prefer a half acre and four bedrooms to a downtown condo on the eighth floor. And there are a lot (A LOT) of people who dislike public transportation. Or, cast another way, they love their cars.

I don't think these people are irrational or stupid. I think there are real benefits to that lifestyle. Just as I think there are benefits to living as a monk, living as a rock star and living as an accountant.

So the question remains, what is it people really want? I know that answer differes from person to person, place to place. But I think it's clear there's not one answer. or even on KIND of answer.
Extrapolating that idea, I think it is really quite possible that different places have concentrations of different kinds of people who want different kinds of things. And that these places, properly designed, will vary according to those wants. That is, maybe Erie should just like Racine, Wisconsin. Maybe not. maybe Scranton should aspire to be more like Chicago in certain ways. Maybe not. And what should Pittsburgh look like? I am not really sure. But I do think that the answer depends on a lot of things.

sean mcdaniel

"that answer differes from person to person, place to place."

you summed it up perfectly. my wife would love to live in a mountain hideway in the colorado rockies. me? i prefer a 800 sq ft. walk up in greenwich village. she wants to explore the beauty of natural life. i want to dive into the bounty of the night life.

but i don't think in any way that suburbanites are unwitting fools. as i've said many times, americans are also looking for that bigger piece of land that they can call their own.

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