Thursday, November 13, 2008

The third rush hour ... ending talk of the end of sprawl? …

Officepark   Just a few months ago, with gasoline over $4 a gallon, chatter was full of talk of the “end of sprawl” with a rush to small cars and avoiding driving.  Land use law needed to adapt to a dense new world in which we’d all live in apartments without cars and walk down the block to buy our baguettes and then hop on the streetcars to our jobs two miles away.  A brave new world seemed at hand.   
   But with gas now selling for less than half of its spring value, can we say that the end of sprawl –- like the “end of history” proclaimed with the fall of communism –- was a tad premature? 
   It certainly appears so from this much-cited recent article in the Washington Post about the continued vigor of the “third rush hour” in the suburban office park empire of Tyson’s Corner.  With each office building separated from others by acres of parking lots and lunch establishments dotted across the landscapes, next to roaring highways, many lunchers who don’t bring their microwave meals get in cars to drive to lunch –- often for less than a mile.  Diners scoffed at the reporter’s suggestion that they might use a proposed shuttle bus to lunch.   
   Unless and until most American workers are willing (or able) to walk to lunch away from the office, it is way, way, too early even to spy the end of sprawl …

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