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  #1  
Old Posted Jul 13, 2016, 4:05 AM
the urban politician the urban politician is offline
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Will cities experience a second decline?

Cities are seeming invincible these days.

But I wonder if, when newer generations start seeking more space, and when the bills are due to update depreciated residential units (i.e. stuff built or rehabbed in the past 20 years) the capital will be available.

Sure we will never see the same degree of White Flight we saw 50-60 years ago, but is some decline in cities going to happen?

I think so. But I see the City vs Suburb thing as an unpowered pendulum, with each arc being smaller than the previous one. The first arc saw huge declines in our cities, followed by the same in the suburbs. But with each wave, like a swinging pendulum that weakens with friction, the changes become smaller and less substantial.

My prediction is that the long term health of cities is excellent, but they aren't free of market fluctuations, hence hard times, yet.
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Old Posted Jul 13, 2016, 4:31 AM
Kngkyle Kngkyle is offline
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When the infrastructure put in place to support the suburbs starts to age and need replacing then the cost of living in those areas will start to be truly represented in their taxes. This is something that the cities have been increasingly having to deal with but has yet to hit the suburbs since they are a more recent phenomenon and infrastructure tends to have a long lifespan. I think the near-in suburbs that have half decent transit links to the city (job center) will be fine, but the exurbs will have a rude awakening. I don't think the cities themselves will ever really see a downturn in the near (40 year) future - the generation following the Millennials will be even larger and easily able to replace the Millennials who flee to the suburbs to raise families. The downturn in cities was really fueled by the unprecedented size of the boomer generation all coming of age at the same time. The subsequent generation couldn't dream of filling their shoes and so demand in the cities plummeted as the flow of new young workers couldn't cope with the outflow of middle aged families. So you saw population plummet, tax revenue plummet, and entire neighborhoods become derelict. One could reasonably argue that the decline of cities in the 70's-90's was something that is unlikely to ever be repeated barring another world war or significant event that alters natural birth rates.

Last edited by Kngkyle; Jul 13, 2016 at 4:47 AM.
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  #3  
Old Posted Jul 13, 2016, 5:03 AM
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In the middle term, something like a nuke or dirty bomb with threat of more could cause that.

Or aerial commuting could favor wide-open flight lanes.

Telecommuting? That one is interesting. If people could live anywhere, maybe the urbanists would gather even more intensively into the successful center cities, while the masses might spread out more. But regardless, it hasn't happened en masse yet because people seem to want to be around people. And certain jobs might always be local.

The negatives of cities were high for a while. Pollution, racism, federally-influenced disinvestment, etc. Will those factors return at the same level? The Depression and WWII created 15 years that combined absent maintenance, no reinvestment, and a lot of pollution followed by federal and cultural incentives for sprawl. A depression and war could happen, but the federal sprawl machine seems unlikely.

I'd say it keeps going for a while unless something drastic happens.
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Old Posted Jul 13, 2016, 5:30 AM
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Stuff is cyclic. We'll face test over and over again till we're all good enough.
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  #5  
Old Posted Jul 13, 2016, 5:33 AM
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People for the most part have been living in cities for most of recorded history, ie the past 7-10,000 years since farming was invented. I think the advent of the suburbs was a minor blip localized mainly in North America. People like being in cities and I think the suburbs were just a short term North American trend that will hopefully not be sustainable and is already reversing. The suburban golden age only lasted about 55 years from 1950-2005.
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Old Posted Jul 13, 2016, 5:44 AM
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I think you frame it the wrong way, cities have seemingly always been invincible. The aberration was their relative decline in the US post WWII. With violent crime on the decline since the early 90's what we're witnessing is a return to normalcy.
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Old Posted Jul 13, 2016, 7:59 AM
ThePhun1 ThePhun1 is offline
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Originally Posted by photoLith View Post
People for the most part have been living in cities for most of recorded history, ie the past 7-10,000 years since farming was invented. I think the advent of the suburbs was a minor blip localized mainly in North America. People like being in cities and I think the suburbs were just a short term North American trend that will hopefully not be sustainable and is already reversing. The suburban golden age only lasted about 55 years from 1950-2005.
It'll be interesting to see what becomes of suburbs in the coming decades as oil, if not drying up, becomes more expensive along with gas and as the infrastructure in suburbs becomes older. I think the Rust Belt will take the hardest hit but I could see some Sun Belt areas, such as perhaps Phoenix (especially if water stays an issue) start to resemble San Bernardino in a few places. San Bernadino is the prime example of what a decaying ruin a suburb can become.

Las Vegas already flirted with this disaster about a decade ago with entire neighborhoods resembling ghost towns.
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Old Posted Jul 13, 2016, 12:43 PM
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Last time I checked, they weren't making any more land.
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  #9  
Old Posted Jul 13, 2016, 12:58 PM
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Last time I checked, they weren't making any more land.
Sure they are:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_new_islands
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  #10  
Old Posted Jul 13, 2016, 1:18 PM
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Ok, you got me there...although, what about rising sea levels?
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  #11  
Old Posted Jul 13, 2016, 1:40 PM
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Originally Posted by ThePhun1 View Post
It'll be interesting to see what becomes of suburbs in the coming decades as oil, if not drying up, becomes more expensive along with gas and as the infrastructure in suburbs becomes older. I think the Rust Belt will take the hardest hit but I could see some Sun Belt areas, such as perhaps Phoenix (especially if water stays an issue) start to resemble San Bernardino in a few places. San Bernadino is the prime example of what a decaying ruin a suburb can become.

Las Vegas already flirted with this disaster about a decade ago with entire neighborhoods resembling ghost towns.
Some suburbs might manage, they could become rather different places in the future.

For example the typical auto-oriented suburb might have transit mode share of 5%, and the combination of low mode share and low density means that transit sucks. But imagine if density stayed the same and mode share went from 5% to 50% or even higher! We have a hard time imagining suburbs with good transit, but that's partly because we have a hard time imagining them having such high mode share, because really, there's no reason for it right now that gas is cheap and driving is faster. Even highly urban neighbourhoods often have similar amounts driving as taking transit today.

As for mixing of uses, right now many suburbs are very bad at it, but perhaps the local strip mall will be converted to light industry, and residential space will be used for small businesses and cottage industries. In order to accommodate a more varied demographic (age, income...) some houses might get converted to duplexes, boarding houses or whatnot. That would likely lead to an increase in density as well. Space dedicated to car storage could get put to other uses (even if gas prices don't change but driverless cars come into play) whether that's garages converted to accessory dwellings, workshops or small shops, or parking lots getting converted to squares, parks, or getting built up.

Fences blocking access to roads, strip malls, or between subdivisions will get torn down. Even culs-de-sacs could get connected, you don't need to connect them with a full-sized road that will require houses to get torn down, just a small pathway for pedestrians and cyclists cutting through what are currently side-yards should do fine.

If high gas prices means there is tons of excess road space, then you now have some nice ROWs that can be used for other forms of transportation. Transit will speed up if it can get dedicated ROWs on the cheap, and if the need for transit lights is reduced and most can get eliminated. Isn't ROW acquisition the biggest cost by a good margin for BRT and LRT (and freight and commuter rail)? Traffic lights are mostly needed when you have dozens of cars per minute trying to get through an intersection. Bikes and pedestrians are much more nimble and don't need traffic lights to move around each other, and transit vehicles would still only come once every couple minutes so pedestrians and bicyclists can just wait for them to pass.

Even with the new transit ROWs, there will likely still be a lot of excess road space. Arterials could be narrowed from 6 lanes to 2 lanes with multi-use paths. Side streets could go from 30-40 ft curb to curb to maybe 15. Driveways could be eliminated. All that excess asphalt could be converted to open space or built up, which would also reduce maintenance costs and increase density. Reduced wear and tear from cars and trucks would reduce maintenance costs as well.
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  #12  
Old Posted Jul 13, 2016, 1:46 PM
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The biggest challenge would be getting an HOA-controlled subdivision or even just a bunch of me-firsters to do something together. In a lot of cases stuff like that would make sense already, and be a big financial windfall, but how often does it happen? Look at the typical houses-near-transit or houses-near-offices scenario.

Another would be the crappy quality of most newer houses. They might last a while if cared for, but sound-transmission, general flimsiness, etc., don't translate easily to subdividing.
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Old Posted Jul 13, 2016, 2:44 PM
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I agree cities seem to have weathered the telecommuting trend. Not that long ago everyone predicted decline because you could work from anywhere, so the annoyances of cities were no longer completely necessary.

But it turns out there was value in social structures and meeting face to face to conduct business, and the younger generation wanted to conglomerate around the likeminded and have nice places to eat and relax

What we might see is the highest ranking cities grow and stay healthy, while the lower end cities that always seem to lose struggle more, and those that are now up-and-coming have to work harder to keep their positive momentum going.

Others may have specialized internal issues, such as the cost and availability of housing in SF and crime in CHI, etc
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  #14  
Old Posted Jul 13, 2016, 3:29 PM
the urban politician the urban politician is offline
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Originally Posted by photoLith View Post
People for the most part have been living in cities for most of recorded history, ie the past 7-10,000 years since farming was invented. I think the advent of the suburbs was a minor blip localized mainly in North America. People like being in cities and I think the suburbs were just a short term North American trend that will hopefully not be sustainable and is already reversing. The suburban golden age only lasted about 55 years from 1950-2005.
Completely wrong. There is no evidence whatsoever, none, nada, zilch, of a massive back-to-the-city residential trend that is occurring at a sizable expense to suburban well-being.
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  #15  
Old Posted Jul 13, 2016, 3:30 PM
the urban politician the urban politician is offline
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Originally Posted by ThePhun1 View Post
It'll be interesting to see what becomes of suburbs in the coming decades as oil, if not drying up, becomes more expensive along with gas and as the infrastructure in suburbs becomes older. I think the Rust Belt will take the hardest hit but I could see some Sun Belt areas, such as perhaps Phoenix (especially if water stays an issue) start to resemble San Bernardino in a few places. San Bernadino is the prime example of what a decaying ruin a suburb can become.

Las Vegas already flirted with this disaster about a decade ago with entire neighborhoods resembling ghost towns.
Why the hell would this hurt the rust belt more than anyplace else in America?
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Old Posted Jul 13, 2016, 4:48 PM
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Maybe, but I don't think it the decline will be existential.

Change is constant. Places have to stick to inherent strengths and see opportunities where they lie.
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Old Posted Jul 13, 2016, 4:50 PM
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I think you frame it the wrong way, cities have seemingly always been invincible. The aberration was their relative decline in the US post WWII. With violent crime on the decline since the early 90's what we're witnessing is a return to normalcy.
I love this. Good call.
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Old Posted Jul 13, 2016, 4:56 PM
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I love this. Good call.
Yeah, I think this is probably true. The suburban boom/urban decline era was somewhat of a historical abberation.

Though I also think people overplay the urban revival/suburban decline. Yes, there's a general upward trend with cities, and downward trend with suburbs, but fairly modest.

We aren't going to have suburban wastelands anytime soon, and the vast majority of Americans will continue to live in suburbia. Just travel to the fringes of your metro area, and you will see the McMansions going up full-throttle.
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Old Posted Jul 13, 2016, 6:21 PM
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Originally Posted by Kngkyle View Post
When the infrastructure put in place to support the suburbs starts to age and need replacing then the cost of living in those areas will start to be truly represented in their taxes. This is something that the cities have been increasingly having to deal with but has yet to hit the suburbs since they are a more recent phenomenon and infrastructure tends to have a long lifespan. I think the near-in suburbs that have half decent transit links to the city (job center) will be fine, but the exurbs will have a rude awakening. I don't think the cities themselves will ever really see a downturn in the near (40 year) future - the generation following the Millennials will be even larger and easily able to replace the Millennials who flee to the suburbs to raise families. The downturn in cities was really fueled by the unprecedented size of the boomer generation all coming of age at the same time. The subsequent generation couldn't dream of filling their shoes and so demand in the cities plummeted as the flow of new young workers couldn't cope with the outflow of middle aged families. So you saw population plummet, tax revenue plummet, and entire neighborhoods become derelict. One could reasonably argue that the decline of cities in the 70's-90's was something that is unlikely to ever be repeated barring another world war or significant event that alters natural birth rates.
The first baby boomer of the 'boomer generation' did not come of age (18) until 1965-boomers were born from 47-64. It was the 'Greatest Generation' coming back from war that started the flight.

Also cities after the war in the US were not in the best shape. There had been an entire generation where not enough new housing was built due to depression and the war, so there was not enough money to build or maintain housing, and then there was money from full employment and overtime but no materials-all for the war effort.

My parents were born in 28 and 33 and they recall 'the city' as dirty, run down, overcrowded, and not that great. There was a housing crisis really after the war, and with the decisions made by the powers that be, the desire for new housing(after 15 years of not much 'new'-new was very sought after), the artificial 'boom' of the 50's early 60's cause by the competitors of the US having war damaged economies, cheap energy, racial tension, etc it is not exactly surprising that people fled the cities.

And by the time the first 'Boomer' reached 18 in 1965, the cities were already in crisis. Hopefully there will be a balance struck between city and suburb that will prevail. And there are many Americans(yes even many millennials throughout the nation) who love the suburbs and exurbs and will pay just about whatever it takes to live there. Otherwise we would end up with wealthy cities and the poor and minorities pushed to the declining suburbs- the 'donut' in reverse.
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Old Posted Jul 13, 2016, 7:25 PM
ChargerCarl ChargerCarl is offline
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Yeah, I think this is probably true. The suburban boom/urban decline era was somewhat of a historical abberation.

Though I also think people overplay the urban revival/suburban decline. Yes, there's a general upward trend with cities, and downward trend with suburbs, but fairly modest.

We aren't going to have suburban wastelands anytime soon, and the vast majority of Americans will continue to live in suburbia. Just travel to the fringes of your metro area, and you will see the McMansions going up full-throttle.
How much of this represents American preferences and how much of it just reflects the fact that we've largely outlawed new housing construction in our cities?
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