01 August 2008

Urban Not-so-Hipster on cities...

No. 3 over at FFB points us today to a fascinating article about demographic inversion in US (and to a certain extent global) cities. As a student of the urban in part of my academic life, and a lover of analyses of urban space I recommend reading it--it's very interesting. Some comments to add to those already noted by rhif tri:

Always slightly missing from the discussion about downtown-versus-suburb/exurb/whateverurb is that, er, lots of people live in very small cities, largeish towns, and straight up rural areas. There's a myopia involved in the discussion of where you might want to live in a city, or where people choose to live that assumes to a large extent that we're all talking about the same major cities in the same major Euro-American countries. The article includes Charlotte NC, which is great, but mostly it's about the larger places.

One of the biggest changes for us moving from a series of these smaller towns (Fredericksburg VA, Redlands CA, State College PA, Swansea UK) to the city for the first time since graduate school is transportation. Not the car, mind--you're dependent on that in most cities in the US and our interlude in Swansea was lovely for lack of dependence on a vehicle despite it being a smaller city/bigger town. I'm talking of airports. For all the carbon neutral, rising costs, security line nightmares of today's airline travel, sometimes you still have to do it. And this is the first time since MSP that we've lived within 25 minutes' drive of a major airport.

Fredericksburg: hellish hour and a half drive to DCA on I-95 (about the same by train/metro but then you add in the lead times for getting there based on the infrequent transit schedule), 2-3 hours hard driving to IAD, hour and a half easyish drive to RIC.

Redlands: 45 minutes to ONT, if you timed it right. 2ish hours to LAX.

State College: 15 minutes to SCE! Where you then have the privilege (for crazy amounts of money) of flying a bus-sized propeller plane to IAD's Terminal G (if you've been there you know what I'm talking about) or Cincinnati. Enjoy. 3 hours to BWI, PIT, or PHL.

Swansea: 1+ hours' drive to CWL, near impossible to reach by public transport. 2ish hours to BRS (2.5 by public transport, which involved 2 trains and a bus). 3.5 hours to LHR, 4ish hours by train, or 5 hours by bus. Don't even talk about LGW.

So the quick drive or relatively easy public transport trek to BWI is looking great to us. And when I booked a ticket this week to visit PDX from DCA at the last minute, I was astonished at how little work I had to do. I found the ticket, booked it, then found a place to board Luke, booked that, and looked around. There must be something else I have to do, right? What am I forgetting? Oh yeah--I don't have to research train times to the airport or book tickets to get there or worry about my flight being 2 hours late and nullifying my train tickets--I just get on the metro and head to DCA. Should take about 25 minutes from my front door. Cool. And then on the other end, the family that's meeting us has about a 15-20 minute drive to PDX. And if they had the money to participate in the inversion and live in Portland, we could take public transport to get to them. The livin' really is easy.


Number Three said...

Hadn't thought of the airports angle in a long time. Good point. Frances and I have been rather fortunate to be close to major airports since Nashville days . . . although when we used to fly out of BWI (Southwest!) when living in Vienna, VA, that was a bit of a stretch in traffic.

In D.C. the one thing that bothers me is when out-of-town visitors don't know that IAD ("Dulles") is not convenient to the actual District of effin' Columbia. I know that Orbitz and other sites will sell you that ticket as "Washington, D.C." but come on.

sageblue said...

Atrios/Eschaton often comments on such issues, and I tend to agree with him often. What we are facing in the Philadelphia suburbs is a good infrastructure that has not been updated in 25 years. That is, the rail system is a good start, but it's too expensive and only goes to and from the center (oh, and doesn't go out here).

On the airport side, I will be flying out of ABE (that's Allentown) for the first time in October. Instead of flying PHL-CVG, we're doing ABE-DAY because it was $300/ticket cheaper and ABE is just as close as PHL.