What if suburbanization never happened? What if the interstate highway system was never constructed? These are questions that we will never know the answer to. However, it is interesting to speculate about what could have been. By doing this, maybe an attainable goal can be set which we can strive for as we progress into a world that is becoming more and more urban.
In a world without an interstate highway system (which played a very large role in suburbanization along with the car) cities would be much more dense and compact. People would live closer to cities so they could get to work in a short amount of time through the use of small community roads or public transportation. The public transportation systems would need to be extensive. The public transit would actually have served as a road map of how far the cities would extend from their center. If public transit went from downtown to about 5-10 miles out in all directions, proper development would have followed so people could hop on the light rail close to home and be at work in no more than 20 to 30 minutes. By eliminating car traffic into and out of cities, foot traffic is increased greatly. I believe this would spur economic development because more foot traffic should lead to more business for the local small businesses of the city.
Unfortunately, as Levy covers in “Contemporary Urban Planning,” suburbanization did happen and people are still to this day commuting daily by vehicle to their place of work on the nation’s highways. However, I believe the aforementioned suburbanization-less urban landscape is still attainable and may actually be a necessity eventually. The commute to work for the average suburbanite may become too expensive as energy costs rise. This is why I think it is important for us to strive for the urban utopia I described above. If we take steps towards providing efficient and effective public transportation in and around cities, we will be prepared when suburbanization begins to retract back towards cities. People will move into surrounding areas of cities and an efficient way for them to get to work in the city will already be in place. By looking at what could have been, we can be prepared for the changes of the future.