Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Of Oil and the Virtues of New Urbanism

"Crude oil and gasoline futures fell Tuesday after President Bush gave the Environmental Protection Agency the authority to relax regional clean-fuel standards to attract more imports of gasoline to the United States and to make it easier for supplies to be moved from one state to another." Read the full article, by Brad Foss of the AP, here.

I was walking my dog today after visiting a few local neighborhood spots, including one place I'm considering for a business venture. I commented to my wife that the ability to get most places I needed to go on foot was the way it should be. Neighbors might actually get to know each other, communities might revitalize and the obesity problem might melt like so many Subway Jareds, all without greasing the terror machine, enriching the oil barons or polluting the air. Yes, she said, it should be the 1950s again.

I laughed and got a little wistful before remembering a link a friend sent me about New Urbanism from National Geographic. Make sure to click on the "Explore a 'New Urbanist Neighborhood" button and be as amused as I was at how closely their plan for a new suburbia resembles American urban centers of the past. Public parks. On street parking. Movie theatres. Mass transit. Tree lined streets. A far cry from another Pleasant Valley Sunday and a step in the right direction for sure, but NG's straight-faced presentation (which never mentions the classical urban inspirations) is one of the best inside jokes I've come across in some time.

Why the subterfuge? I suspect that NG is likely a true believer, and one savvy enough to know that transforming suburbia into an efficient, livable and connected place has a better chance of happening if the exact reasons for New Urbanism's retro charm (suburbanites love that-- shabby chic, anyone?) remain a mystery. Chalk one up for ironic urban planning, and count me in.


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