Richard Florida: Decline of the Burbs is Not Just About Gas Prices

Via Planetizen, Richard Florida argues the decline in the popularity of
suburbs is not just a product of rising oil prices, but a result of a
new "spatial fix" that is reorganizing how and where people live their
lives. From Florida’s column in the Globe and Mail:


What’s happening here goes a lot deeper than the end of cheap oil. We
are now passing through the early development of a wholly new
geographic order – what geographers call “the spatial fix” – of which
the move back toward the city is just one part.

Suburbanization was the spatial fix for the industrial age – the
geographic expression of mass production. Low-cost mortgages, massive
highway systems and suburban infrastructure projects fuelled the
industrial engine of postwar capitalism, propelling demand for cars,
appliances and all sorts of industrial goods.

The creative economy is giving rise to a new spatial fix and a very
different geography – the contours of which are only now emerging.
Rising fuel costs are one thing, but in today’s idea-driven economy, it’s time costs that really matter.
With the constant pressure to be more efficient and to innovate, it
makes little sense to waste countless collective hours commuting. So
the most efficient and productive regions are the ones in which people
are thinking and working – not sitting in traffic. And, according to
detailed research by the Nobel Prize-winning economist Daniel Kahneman,
commuting is among the least enjoyable, if not the single least
enjoyable, of all human activities.

  • This guy is giving Americans way too much credit for the rapid devaluing of suburbia.

    To say “it goes much deeper than the oil crisis” and then hang your argument on ideas about time being expensive, thus leading us to live non-suburan lives – it is just too much.

    High energy cost have everything to do with the devaluing of suburbia. Cheap energy and the U.S. style of housing development and highway construction are part of a system that is now collapsing. The whole thing depended on a profligate and ever growing use of energy. High energy costs means no more growth, and that pretty much is that. The air is being let out of the balloon.

    “Time” savings have nothing to do with it. If someone cannot afford to drive 50 miles round trip, then they will be forced to move. The place they lived will either grow job centers organically, or it will slowly decay into the sparsely inhabited wilderness area it was 50 years ago.


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