19 May, 2008

The American Dream

Paul Krugman's column tells us that we will have to live much, much closer together in the age of scarce oil. Compare the satellite views of Minneapolis, Minnesota and Budapest, Hungary that I have added below. It should be obvious which of these cities is built for cars and which is built for people. Minneapolis has a patch of skyscrapers that is surrounded by vast parking lots and a giant ring highway that severs the core of the city from its more suburban neighborhoods. Budapest, on the other hand, is a carpet of 6-8 story apartment buildings with a few large boulevards (but no freeways) and parks.

Both cities have areas of density, to be sure, but Budapest's density is dispersed, while Minneapolis' is concentrated. The functions of the city are, in Budapest, spread throughout the city, and, in Minneapolis, are segregated. Downtown is for working, the areas beyond the beltway are for living. And that white dome is for having fun. Of course, to travel between any of these areas, you need a car.

View Larger Map

View Larger Map

The American Dream of our grandparents' generation may be coming to an end. A house with a yard and a two-car garage quite possibly will not be the way most people live in twenty or fifty years. More likely, our cities will look like Budapest, and we'll live somewhere in the carpet apartments. There's nothing wrong with that, of course, but our nation's perceptions about the good life will have to change.

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