- Throughout America there are many regulations that restrict the density of the built environment.
- Were it not for these restrictions, people would build more densely.
- Were the built environment more densely built, the metro areas would be less sprawling.
So here's a serious question: outside of a big city core, has anyone ever successfully built a walkable, high-density suburb? Not a village or a small town. I mean something really dense and walkable: a place where sidewalks are busy, mass transit is good, and there are plenty of high-rise apartment buildings. I know the New Urbanist folks talk about this a lot, but do any actually exist? Educate me, peeps.
Drum's question was picked up by someone called Polis on the Sustainable Cities Collective. There were a few takers, including commenters on the Sustainable Cities Collective blog who nominated suburbs of Philadelphia, Portland and San Diego, and several Beltway bloggers (including Greg Sanders and Ryan Avent) who point to various DC suburbs. No reaction from Drum or Polis yet.
This is related to my previous post about how many transit advocates are ill-informed about life without cars. Here we have liberal smart growth "peeps" who are ill-informed about dense, walkable suburbs, but they are at least open to the possibilities, and eager to be educated.
Drum's question actually shows that a lot of urban history is being forgotten. Most "urban cores" started out as bedroom communities. Greenwich Village, Brooklyn Heights, Long Island City and the Bronx were suburbs once. Hudson County, the part of New Jersey across the river from Manhattan, includes the four densest towns in the US, according to the 2000 census: Guttenberg, West New York, Union City and Hoboken. I've long thought that New York should just annex Hudson County as the fifth borough and be done with it.
If those are too "urban core" for you, consider these "streetcar suburbs" of Westchester County, all of whom have high-rise apartments walking distance from a commuter rail station, downtown shops and a supermarket: Scarsdale, where Garth Road is lined with seven- to ten-story luxury co-ops; Bronxville; the Fleetwood neighborhood of Mount Vernon; New Rochelle; Larchmont; and many more.
Oh, and for Jarrett, these Westchester suburbs all have twice-hourly trains to Grand Central Station six days a week, and hourly service on Sundays.
Most of these buildings were built years ago, between 1920 and 1960; for more recent dense suburb-building, see the claims for various DC suburbs. New Rochelle has also seen some recent high-rise transit-oriented development.