The Innisfil/Uber Partnership: A Lesson for the Future of Transit Planning

Dave Hardy and Jeremiah Pariag of the INS were lucky enough to interview Brett Chang of Uber. Brett is a Senior Policy Advisor at Uber and has been instrumental in the Uber/Innisfil partnership. In Ontario and around the world, this partnership has the potential to serve as a model for how a private sector company, such as Uber, can effectively work with a public entity to solve transit needs. It also has the potential to be one of the first steps towards the integration of ridesharing in transit and transportation masterplans.

For years, planners and transportation experts have been struggling to solve the problem of First Mile/Last Mile, which is essentially connecting people from their homes to transit hubs without the use of their personal vehicles. Uber, and other ridesharing companies, are currently providing a solution for this, proving that ridesharing can be a strong compliment to public transit, and in the case of Innisfil, can sometimes provide a more feasible, efficient, and reliable system.

The partnership between Uber and Innisfil has been promising so far, and the INS is excited to see to future of the ridesharing industry and what we hope is a complementary relationship between this industry and the planning sector.

If you are hoping to learn more about the Uber/Innisfil project, join us for our upcoming April event. The INS is proud to welcome Brett Chang for our next speaking event, as well as members of Peel Region staff who will discuss the aggressive modal shift that the region is striving for. The event will be held on April, 30th from 9:00AM to 12:00PM at the Chinguacousey Ski Chalet in Brampton, Ontario. Tickets can be purchased at

Jeremiah: Can you tell us about yourself and your educational background? 

Brett: I went to the University of Toronto for undergrad and majored in History and Political Science. After leaving U of T, I worked in politics for about 6-8 months, as well as during university. After leaving politics, I worked in tech for a bit and then started a company called Adrenaline, a digital public affairs agency which we ended up selling to another public affairs agency. Then, I started Line 6, which was an alternative transit startup that we did for about a year before moving to Uber.

Jeremiah: How did you get involved with Uber?

Brett: That actually goes back to Line 6. Line 6 was a crowd-funded bus that was running from Liberty Village to Union Station. At about the same time that we launched, Uber X was also launched in Toronto. I met with Ian Black who, at the time, was the General Manager of Uber in Ontario, and he invited me to join the team which I did as a Marketing Manager in 2016 and that’s how it all began.

Jeremiah: What area of Uber do you work in now?

Brett: I work in public policy. I work with governments to help to develop smart regulations for ridesharing and also work with them on partnerships to help solve some of their mobility challenges.

Jeremiah: When working with governments, who would you typically work with?

Brett: There is a mix, it is mostly municipalities, but there are instances that we work directly with the Province. So, those might be if we’re working on a partnership with Metrolinx as well as the Ministry of Transportation, but if there are agencies and particular municipalities that are interested in partnering with us, we’ll work with them. Then, on the regulatory front in Ontario, ridesharing is regulated at the city-level, so it is strictly municipalities

Jeremiah: From working on the Public Policy Team at Uber, what have you learned?

Brett: What I have learned is that, by working with governments and developing smart, innovative solutions to some of their problems, these types of partnerships can really make a positive impact on their residents’ lives.

Jeremiah: Are towns, cities, and municipalities embracive of Uber? Have you run into any issues?

Brett: Well, I think that if you follow Uber and other ridesharing companies around the world, there is obviously a debate about how it should be regulated. I think we’re really happy with where we’ve ended up to date in Ontario and I think what we’re seeing now is a shift towards municipalities engaging directly with ridesharing providers like Uber to develop partnerships and solutions to tackle their big mobility challenges. I think that’s really exciting and it’s something we’re looking to do a lot more of.

Jeremiah: In those situations, did the municipalities typically approach Uber?

Brett: It’s a mix – so there are instances where we engage directly with the municipalities and sometimes they reach out to us, so it really depends.

Jeremiah: Could you tell me more about the Innisfil project and why it’s been so successful?

Brett: Innisfil came to us about a year or year-and-a-half ago. They had a transportation consultancy do a feasibility study on if transit made sense in the Town. They came back with a traditional bus solution with one-bus and two-bus options. The Town determined that they could not justify paying the high capital and operating cost of running a one-bus or two-bus service when it would only cover a very limited amount of the population and only operate at very specific times.

So, when looking for an alternative, the great Town staff that really likes to think outside of the box and do innovative things came to us with interest in partnering on a potential system. So, what we came up with was a dynamic transit service where anyone in the Town of Innisfil can request a ride on the Uber app – there is an option called “Innisfil Transit” in the application. They put in their pick up location and destination. If their destination is one of the five or six popular destinations in the Town, like the library, the recreation centre, or the town hall, they are then eligible for a flat fare. If they are going anywhere else in the Town, outside of the popular destination, they receive an automatic $5 discount on all of their rides, which can be used for any trips going to Innisfil or leaving Innisfil.

Jeremiah: Has response been positive?

Brett: What’s really exciting is that over the course of the past nine months since we launched the service, thousands of Innisfil residents use the service to get to doctor’s appointments, to get to the hockey rink, and get to the Town Hall for services. It’s these stories that really demonstrate the value that this service adds to the community. From the Town and from our end, we view this as a real success and are really proud of the results to date.

Jeremiah: Could you tell me a bit more about how well Uber works with the Town of Innisfil and the strong working relationship?

Brett: it’s a true partnership. It’s been quite an interesting experience coming from the private sector and working with a public entity. Obviously, there are compromises that need to be made, but we both go into it being honest and transparent about what we can and cannot do and I think it’s been a really effective relationship to date, and I’m really looking forward to working with the Town for years to come.

Jeremiah: That’s great to hear! So what has Uber learned from the experience gained through the Innisfil project?

Brett: What we’re learning is that ridesharing can really be part of the solution. Municipalities around the world – big and small – have their own, unique transportation challenges. In a city like Oakville, for example, they have an issue with First Mile/Last Mile – how to get residents that live away from commuter rail stations, but use them frequently, out of their cars and connect them to that station so they don’t have to drive and have an alternate means to get there.

Extending that reach is of interest to those types of municipalities. In the case of Innisfil, in a less dense, more sparsely populated community, how do you provide reliable and affordable transit to residents with the same objective of getting people out of their cars? What we’re realizing more and more is that ridesharing services can be part of that solution.

Jeremiah: Innisfil is obviously significantly less dense than Toronto. How does density affect companies like Uber?

Brett: There is a lot of benefit to using Uber as a transit option vs. traditional transit. One reason being the reach of it. Because of how Uber operates with its door-to-door service, we can pick someone up at their door and take them directly to their destination. We cover the entire Town, whereas a traditional bus service would cover one route. In the case of Innisfil, regardless if the one-bus or two-bus solution was chosen, it would only really cover the main road and a few side roads, and really that would only reach 30% to 40% of the population. The service that we’re currently providing to Innisfil covers all of the population, and more importantly, it does so available 24/7. A traditional bus service, because of labour costs and operation constraints, was only planned to operate from 7:00AM to 6:00PM. Uber can offer service to residents when they need it most, whether that be at rush hour or late at night. I think those are the two biggest features of using Uber as an alternative or as a compliment to public transit in a community like Innisfil.

Jeremiah: Do you think Uber works better in areas with denser populations?

Brett: The denser the population, the easier it is to share rides. So if you are using a service like UberPool, that matches different riders going in the same direction, it is a lot easier to do that if there is a high liquidity of trips. So if there are a concentration of riders, it is a lot easier to match them up. It’s a lot tougher if it is a less dense, more sparsely populated area because there are less people requesting trips at any given moment, so it is hard to match them all up. That would be the biggest benefit of having a highly concentrated population vs. one that is sparser.

Jeremiah: Does Uber believe that the Innisfil model can be replicated in other Canadian towns and cities?

Brett: Innisfil has a lot of unique features that allowed for this project to work, and I think that every municipality has their own very unique challenges. Our commitment is that we want to work with municipalities to develop custom, tailor-made solutions to fit their specific needs. So, I don’t think you could take the Innisfil model and apply it to every municipality in the country – that’s clearly not the case. If you were to use the Innisfil model in Toronto it would be extensive and unaffordable for the City and for the transit agency, but there are different ways that we could work with a bigger city – like Toronto – to complement their existing network. So, while it’s not all plug-and-play, there are many opportunities for us to work in municipalities and transit agencies to help them solve some of their transportation challenges.

Jeremiah: Are there any Cities or Towns, similar to the size and density of Innisfil that Uber is thinking of using a similar model in?

Brett: There are a lot of places that Uber currently operates in Ontario that we would be very interested in working with the Government to expand the service and make us part of their public transportation offering. Durham Region and Halton Region are two places where there is limited public transportation, and Uber could really fill in this gap; however, that is very dependent on if the municipality decides to work with us.

Dave: Having a background in transportation master planning, we worked with HDR to do the Durham Region Transit Masterplan, but Uber wasn’t around back then. What I’m seeing is that every Region needs to do a transportation or transit masterplan and Uber fits in nicely to accommodate for challenges that traditional transit cannot deal with. Transit masterplans look 50 years ahead. Do you think that Uber and other ridesharing companies could revolutionize how transit and transportation masterplans are developed?

Brett: Uber and ridesharing services can augment existing transit networks and that’s very important. Alternative modes to transportation, specifically alternatives to car ownership, have a single goal – how do you get people out of their cars and use other modes of transport? Whether that be biking, walking, or transit, I think we’re all agnostic as long as they're not driving their own vehicles.  When looking 50 years ahead and predicting what transit will look like then is very challenging, and Uber is a great example of that. If you go back 10 years and look at some of the transit masterplans created in the GTA, it would have been impossible to predict Uber, but I do think that the interesting thing about Uber is that it is not a solution that is 50 years away – it is something that can be used right now and can be used to complement the existing infrastructure that already exists – at a cost that is lower than any other type of improvement that you can make to the service.

Dave: With the rise of electric vehicles, autonomous vehicles, and AI, overall atmospheric emissions and congestion should be more manageable in the future. Is Uber thinking about this?

Brett: Yes, and it's already kind of happening. Carpooling has always been a pipedream of governments, but it hasn’t really taken off and has never really been adopted at scale; but, since the launch of services like UberPool, you can actually see carpooling at scale. Hundreds-of-thousands of Torontonians are now taking what is essentially a carpool service every month where they are travelling in one direction and are matched up with other people that they don’t know who are travelling in the same direction. This takes AI to match people up who are going on a single route with the idea of taking cars off the road and improving the efficiency of the vehicles being operated.

When looking at things like autonomous vehicles, I think that autonomous vehicles only help the situation when they are shared. If you have autonomous vehicles without any sharing, you are just adding vehicles to the road which would only make congestion worse. Really, the ultimate solution is having a shared network of autonomous vehicles that are driving around all the time and matching other people who are going in the same direction, rather than everyone having an autonomous vehicle.

Jeremiah: Typically, transit masterplans only recommend traditional modes of transportation. Do you think that there should be a consideration for Uber when creating new transit masterplans?

Brett: I know that these masterplans tend to look ahead, but what is really upsetting is that Uber offers solutions to transit agency challenges that can really be enacted now. There are three areas that I can see ridesharing services having the most impact for transit agencies. One is First Mile/Last Mile. This is the problem of how to connect people to transit hubs without taking their vehicle. I think Uber can be very helpful for that and be much more affordable than building a traditional transit system that would accommodate that exact need. Secondly, I think that on the accessibility front, transit can really benefit from a dynamic service like Uber. I think Uber and transit together could really make a big impact on acceptable transportation in this Province and finally deliver affordable and reliable transit that Ontarians with accessibility needs deserve. Lastly, the Innisfil model, while not exactly replicable to every small municipality in the Province, can really have a positive impact on communities where it does make sense, and I think we’ve seen that in Innisfil and I’m excited to see that happen in other places as well.

Thanks for reading! If you would like to learn more about the Uber/Innisfil projec feel free to join us for our event on April 30th, 2018. Tickets can be purchased at



Autonomous Cars Are About To Transform The Suburbs

The following is an excerpt from an article by Joel Kotkin and Alan M. Berger that was originally published by Forbes. This article highlights some of the changes that will transform the suburbs in the no-so-distant future, many of which the the INS has been discussing for years. Advancements in autonomous vehicles, emission-free vehicles, and drone delivery services will change the way that we think about suburban life, and will change everything from streetscapes to perceptions. Read more about what Kotkin and Berger have to say below:

Suburbs have largely been dismissed by environmentalists and urban planners as bad for the planet, a form that needed to be eliminated to make way for a bright urban future. Yet, after a few years of demographic stultification amid the Great Recession, Americans are again heading to the suburbs in large numbers, particularly millennials.
So rather than fight the tide and treat suburbanization as an evil to be squeezed out, perhaps a better approach would be to modify the suburban form in ways that address its most glaring environmental weakness: dependence on gas-powered automobiles. The rise of ride-sharing, electric cars and ultimately the self-driving automobile seem likely to alter this paradigm. In most other ways, suburbs are at the least no more damaging than dense cities, and they are superior in terms of air quality, maintaining biodiversity, carbon sequestration and stormwater management.
We may well be on the verge of evolving a new kind of highly sustainable, near–zero carbon form, one linked by technology, and economically (and increasingly culturally) self-sufficient. Autonomous cars will remotely park in solar-charged sheds off-site, to be called to the home through handheld devices, thus eliminating the need for garages and driveways. With safer vehicles that can see and react to situations better, roadways will be designed with much less paving to mitigate stormwater runoff and flooding. Homes will have drone delivery ports built in, greatly reducing the number of daily household trips and congestion. With much less redundant paving and more undisturbed land, autonomous suburbs will expand parks, bike trails and farms, and reduce forest fragmentation. Some of the next generation of suburbs will be anchored by main street districts, some of them restored, while others will be built from scratch, as we have seen in places like the Woodlands outside Houston and Valencia north of Los Angeles.
Taming the car
The traditional urbanist view of suburbs is that, if they must exist, they should be linked by mass transit to the city core. But in the U.S., outside of a handful of older cities, transit ridership is stagnant or in decline despite billions in investment from federal and local sources. In Europe, where bullet trains efficiently link suburbs to cities, strict local and national land use policies and high tax subsidies block development of peripheral land, making compact city forms possible. The U.S. has no national land use policy and we highly doubt voters will agree to much higher taxes to protect peripheral lands from development. Our vast geography allows us to spread out: The U.S. is more than 2.5 times the size of the E.U.
Simply put, the advantages of private transportation are, for the most part, too compelling in a country dominated by long distances and dispersed development. Elon Musk recently shared a brutally honest critique of mass transit. “It’s a pain in the ass,” he said. “That’s why everyone doesn’t like it. And there’s like a bunch of random strangers, one of who might be a serial killer, OK, great. And so that’s why people like individualized transport, that goes where you want, when you want.”
In fact, no regional rail system has managed to make any sort of dent in car use. Since 2000, the increase in workers driving alone has been 15 times the increase in those using transit. Even the Progressive Policy Institute, a research organization affiliated with the Democratic Leadership Council, has noted, "The shortest distance between a poor person and a job is along a line driven in a car."
Los Angeles, hailed by the amen crew in the media as the “next great transit city” has experienced a considerable decrease in overall transit ridership over the last few years. Transit’s share of work trips has stalled in such diverse markets as Houston, Dallas-Fort Worth, Atlanta and, remarkably, the transit mecca of Portland.
Meanwhile, instead of jumping on trains, thirty-something millennials are buying cars in huge numbers, heading toward the suburbs and starting families. Road travel this year hit a record, as it has the last five years. The increased popularity of ridesharing services like Uber and Lyft has been cited as a factor in the recent ridership declines in Los Angeles and even on the New York subway. It is also being cited as one reason why new extensions of Boston’s transit system may no longer be needed.
With the assumption that private transportation will prevail, we need to come up with different solutions to reduce greenhouse gases within the context of suburbia. Renewable technologies in the home and much more tree planting can greatly offset carbon consumption, but workforce behavior also needs to change. One piece of the puzzle is the expansion of work at home. Demographer Wendell Cox has found that the share of the U.S. population that works from home has more than doubled since 1980 and now approximates the share that commute to work via mass transit, exceeding it easily outside of New York. The growth of home-based work, which requires no commute, may be the quickest solution to reducing greenhouse gases.
And how about the transit dependent? Ride-sharing technology for transit dependent populations could prove both more cost effective and less time consuming. For example, in suburban San Francisco a transit operator has established a one-year pilot program to subsidize local ridesharing services and has canceled a lightly patronized bus route, reducing costs. Ride-sharing could also compliment public transit in the future, rather than replace it.
All these strategies could potentially reduce greenhouse gases far faster than the fanciful attempts of planners, notably in California, to reduce suburbanization and impose forced densification. A recent Berkeley study suggests that 1.9 million new housing units be built only in infill locations, about 4 percent of the state, saving about 1.8 million metric tons of California greenhouse gas emissions per year from reduced driving. This is less than 1 percent of the new 2030 reductions mandated by the state, and statistically meaningless compared with current annual worldwide emissions of 49,000 million metric tons.
You ain’t seen nothing yet
America’s next suburban wave will be driven by technology, smart devices and Internet-of-things connectivity between cars, roads and homes, offer significant potential breakthroughs, particularly if shaped by the public need, not those of large tech firms. Roy Amara, the late president of the Institute for the Future has said, "We tend to overestimate the effect of a technology in the short run and underestimate the effect in the long run. Self-driving cars are as much of a paradigm shift as the invention of the telephone, and we all need to get prepared for the ride of our lives.”
Americans continue to move, for the most part, to less congested, less dense areas with lower levels of transit service and away from the more tightly packed areas with better transit service, and autonomous vehicles will likely exacerbate this trend. By one estimate, as much as a trillion dollars of real estate value could swing to locations far from job centers that will become more attractive due to autonomous vehicles while reducing the “premium” now awarded to closer in neighborhoods and inner-ring suburbs.

A recent report by the global consulting firm Bain & Co. predicts that technological advances such as the autonomous car will help to create a “post-urban economy” that will be more localized and home-based. By 2025, its analysts write, fewer people could live in urban cores than in exurbs, which it defines as "beyond the traditional commuting belt."
Bill Gates’ proposed new city in Arizona, which will feature these new technologies, is located on the far fringes of the Phoenix area-- to the predictable horror of ‘smart growth’ advocates.
Over time, the autonomous car could make even more revolutionary impacts on both the urban form and transit.  Automated car proponents claim that the cost of operations will be considerably below that of today’s cars. If that should be achieved, the autonomous car could be used to provide door-to-door mobility not only for the elderly and disabled, but also for people who currently cannot afford their own cars. Under any circumstances, this innovation seems certain to further weaken conventional transit outside the cities with legacy cores. In the future, mass transit will be able to geographically refocus its resources on the most dense cores to provide better service, rather than spreading less dollars per square mile, and poorer service, everywhere.
There is considerable disagreement about how soon autonomous vehicles will become commonplace, but development activity is proceeding at a fast pace. There are currently 50 companies testing 387 autonomous vehicles in California alone, according to the state Department of Motor Vehicles.
The sunniest optimists suggest that by 2030 the conversion to autonomous vehicles will be nearly complete. Other researchers predict the roll out of autonomous cars is going to proceed at a modest pace, with total sales in 2035 equaling only one-quarter of present world production.
Despite these disagreements about the pace of change, our way of life, both in cities and suburbs, is being radically transformed. What we need to do now is envision how to design the fully autonomous, low-carbon suburb so that water, air and natural landscapes can be preserved in ways better than we have been capable of in the past.

Poverty's Changing Landscape

Below is a video created by Scott W. Allard, a professor in the Evans School of Public Policy & Governance and the author of the 2017 book “Places in Need: The Changing Geography of Poverty.”

The video provides a short overview of some of the issues facing suburban communities in the United States; however, several of the issues mentioned in the video are also seen around the world. 

In November, the INS has speakers Paul Hunter and John Stapleton in to speak about the growing issue of suburban poverty. Suburban poverty is present and growing in the GTHA -  as described by John Stapleton - in England - as described by Paul Hunter - and is also seen in the United States - as per Scott Allard.



Are Elite Cities Squeezing out the Middle Class?

Below is a excerpt from an article originally published by American think-tank, the Manhattan Institute. The article, titled Elite Cities Are Squeezing out the Middle Class — Straight to More Welcoming Places, Like Dallas, was written by Joel Kotkin and Wendell Cox and emphasizes the growing dialogue that cities are becoming viewed as being more elite and unaffordable, effectively puehsing the middle class out. 

Before getting into the article, it is important to note that many academics are seeing similar trends in Toronto and the GTA. 

This past week, Professor David Hulchanski of the University of Toronto tweeted the following:

Hulchanski Tweet.png
Scarborough Map.png

From the tweet and the map above, it shows that a high amount of the wealth in the GTA has been focussed in the core of the City. Urbanism has done a great job of densifying the core areas of Toronto; however, the suburban communities that surround the core are worse-off than they were in past years.

It is important to remember than new suburbanism is not a rejection of urbanism. One of the main goals of new suburbanism is to draw attention to issues faced by suburban areas (suburban poverty and decreasing incomes, among others) and create a dialogue in the appropriate planning and political spheres. 

This type of trend has been seen in the United States, as discussed in the excerpt below from the previous mentioned article by Kotkin and Cox. 

The revival of America's core cities is one of the most celebrated narratives of our time — yet, perhaps paradoxically, urban progress has also created a growing problem of increasing inequality and middle-class flight. Once exemplars of middle-class advancement, most major American cities are now typified by a "barbell economy," divided between well-paid professionals and lower-paid service workers.
As early as the 1970s, notes the Brookings Institution, middle-income neighborhoods began to shrink more dramatically in inner cities than anywhere else — and the phenomenon has continued. Today, in virtually all U.S. metro areas, the inner cores are more unequal than their corresponding suburbs, observes geographer Daniel Herz.
Signs of this gap are visible. Homelessness has been on the rise in virtually all large cities, even as it declines elsewhere. Despite numerous exposés on the growth of suburban poverty, the poverty rate in core cities remains twice as high; according to the 2010 census, more than 80 percent of all urban-core population growth in the previous decade was among the poor. For all the talk about inner-city gentrification, concentrated urban poverty remains a persistent problem, with 75 percent of high-poverty neighborhoods in 1970 still classified that way four decades later.
Urban progress has also created a growing problem of increasing inequality and middle-class flight.
Clearly, then, the urban renaissance has not lifted all, or even most, boats. San Francisco, arguably the nation's top urban hot spot, is seeing the most rapid increase in income inequality of any metropolitan area in the nation, according to a Bloomberg study. The ranks of the country's most bifurcated cities include such celebrated urban areas as San Francisco, New York, Chicago and Los Angeles, where the poverty rate is higher now than before the 1992 riots, both in the city proper and in the riot zone.
The new urban demographic — a combination of poor residents, super-affluent households (many childless), and a younger generation with limited upward mobility — has created conditions peculiarly ideal for left-wing agitation. This marks a sharp contrast with the early 1990s, when urban voters embraced pragmatic mayors like Rudy Giuliani in New York, Bob Lanier in Houston and Richard Riordan in Los Angeles. Even San Francisco in 1991 elected Frank Jordan, a middle-of-the-road Democrat and former police chief.
In some cases, these pioneering mayors were followed by less groundbreaking but highly effective leaders like New York's Michael Bloomberg or Houston's Bill White. The resulting golden era of urban governance helped foster safer streets and more buoyant economies, attracting immigrants and a growing number of young and talented people to the urban core. Ironically, though, the urban revival fostered demographic changes that would make it much harder for these reform mayors to win today.
The new urban demographics have also occasioned a huge drop in civic participation in cities like New York and Los Angeles; in such Democrat-dominated cities, little motivation exists for any but the most ideologically driven or economically dependent voters to go to the polls. Bill de Blasio, for example, won the 2013 New York mayoral election with the lowest-percentage turnout since the 1920s, while Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti won re-election with only 20 percent of voters casting ballots — less than half of the turnout when Riordan won in 1993.
The electorate has not only shrunk but has also become demonstrably more left-leaning. In 1984, for example, Ronald Reagan garnered 31 percent of the vote in San Francisco, while winning 27.4 percent in Manhattan and over 38 percent in Brooklyn. By 2012, Mitt Romney, a more moderate Republican, won barely 13 percent of the vote in San Francisco, and he garnered less than half of Reagan's share 28 years earlier in Manhattan and Brooklyn. Donald Trump did even worse in all these areas.
Cities today are about as politically diverse as the former Soviet Union; they are increasingly dominated by "the civic left," for which pragmatism and moderation represent weakness and compromise. The emergence of Trump seems to have deepened this instinct, with mayors such as de Blasio and Garcetti, Seattle's Ed Murray and Minneapolis' Betsy Hodges all playing leading roles in the progressive "resistance" against the president.
Their anti-Trump posturing is mostly for show, but these mayors are pushing substantive — and increasingly radical — agendas of social engineering. Their initiatives include, in Los Angeles, imposing "road diets" on commuters to reduce car usage (while making traffic worse), as well as "green-energy" schemes that raise energy prices. Most are committed to serving as "sanctuary" cities and enacting unprecedented hikes in the minimum wage in an effort to eliminate income inequality by diktat.
Many of these efforts clash with the aspirations of middle-class residents, who tend to drive cars, want to preserve their human-scale neighborhoods, and own small businesses highly sensitive to wage levels. Regulatory policies that seek to limit lower-density housing have led to escalating home prices in areas such as San Francisco, Los Angeles and Portland. In these areas, housing costs (adjusted for income) are roughly two to three times as high as places like Dallas, Atlanta, Charlotte and Raleigh.
At the same time, high income taxes work against upper-middle-class entrepreneurs, who are usually stuck footing the bill for the "civic left" playbook. These businesspeople often don't have access to tax shelters, and they usually don't earn most of their money through capital gains. Particularly vulnerable are those paying higher local income taxes, most of them living in and around the big coastal metros and the Midwest's new basket case, Chicago.
No surprise, then, that many of those leaving California, New York and other blue havens are people in their mid-30s to early 50s — precisely the age when people are raising families, buying houses and launching businesses. For many, an escape from the left means heading to places where the political climate is, if not outwardly conservative, more moderate and business-friendly.
Nor is the progressive agenda likely to help its intended beneficiaries: the poor. The prospect of rapidly rising wages for mid-level jobs is undermining sectors like the Los Angeles garment industry, for example, where an exodus of employers is already occurring. Overall, as documented in a Center for Opportunity Urbanism study, economic prospects for minorities are much brighter in metro areas other than New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco.
Many of those leaving California, New York and other blue havens are people in their mid-30s to early 50s...
This is particularly true for homeownership, where the rates for blacks are at least 20 percent higher in cities like Atlanta, Nashville and Charlotte, compared with those more glamorous cities. Adjusted for income, homes are less than half as expensive for blacks and Hispanics in metropolitan Atlanta or Dallas-Fort Worth, compared with Los Angeles and the Bay Area. Meantime, heavily white cities with rising real-estate values like Portland, Boston, San Francisco and Seattle are seeing what remains of their minority neighborhoods disappear.
Crime poses a conundrum for the new left urban politics. The decline in crime in the 1990s reduced homicides dramatically, likely helping to reverse population loss in most cities. Now homicides are back on the rise in many large cities — but instead of bolstering law enforcement, most mayors have embraced the Black Lives Matter critique, which blames crime on institutionalized police racism. They do so despite measurable evidence that the main victims of this outlook, which has led to "de-policing" of vulnerable communities, are minorities and the poor.Seattle, a city that has benefited mightily from the recent tech boom, epitomizes the tendency to pursue a left-wing agenda that undermines the very people it is intended to help.
A city-funded University of Washington study found that Seattle's minimum-wage increase actually reduced incomes and jobs for lower-wage workers. In a state with no income tax, Seattle's City Council unanimously passed a law that applies a 2.25 percent tax on income above $250,000 for individuals and above $500,000 for married couples filing together. Developers outside the city limits, such as in nearby Bellevue, are eager to accommodate the inevitable exodus of residents.
There is nothing inevitable about the future trajectory of urban economies. The suburbs, consigned to the dustbin of history by many urban boosters, have rebounded from the Great Recession. Demographer Jed Kolko, analyzing the most recent census numbers, suggests that most big cities' population growth now lags their suburbs, which have accounted for over 80 percent of metropolitan expansion since 2011. Even where the urban-core renaissance has been strongest, ominous signs abound. The population growth rate for Brooklyn and Manhattan fell nearly 90 percent from 2010-11 to 2015-16.
The disposition of the millennial generation, on which so many urban dreams rest, will be critical. Roughly 70 percent of millennials already live outside core-city counties and, Kolko suggests, as they head into their 30s, many appear to be moving back to suburbia. University of Southern California demographer Dowell Myers suggests that we have reached "peak urban millennial" as the generation, albeit more slowly, becomes adult householders, not hipsters seeking a great "urban experience."
Economic trends follow a similar trajectory. Nearly 80 percent of all job growth since 2010 has occurred in suburbs and exurbs. Most tech growth takes place not in the urban core, as widely suggested, but in dispersed urban environments, from Silicon Valley to Austin to Raleigh. Despite the much-ballyhooed shift in small executive headquarters to some core cities, the most rapid expansion of professional business-service employment continues to happen largely in low-density metropolitan areas such as Dallas-Fort Worth, Nashville and Kansas City.
And most young people are not doing well in elite cities. For example, in New York City, millennial incomes (ages 18-29) have dropped in real terms compared with the same age cohort in 2000, despite considerably higher education levels, while rents have increased 75 percent. New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco have three of the nation's four lowest homeownership rates for young people and among the lowest birthrates.
Housing costs might be the biggest driver of millennial migration in the future. According to Zillow, for workers between 22 and 34, rent costs claim up to 45 percent of income in the Los Angeles, San Francisco, New York and Miami metropolitan areas, compared with closer to 30 percent of income in metros like Dallas-Fort Worth and Houston. This may be one reason, notes a recent Urban Land Institute report, that 74 percent of Bay Area millennials are considering a move out of the region in the next five years, while a recent survey by the UCLA Luskin School suggests that 18-to-29-year-olds were the group least satisfied with life in Los Angeles.
If the flight of moderate, middle-income homeowners continues, along with the growth in population of poor residents and childless hipsters, urban centers will be destined to serve as sandboxes for the progressive political class. Most urban leaders and media boosters have been slow to recognize such trends, which call for a thorough change in policy.
Urbanist Derek Thompson suggests that cities like New York are wonderful for new immigrants, hipster, and the ultrarich but "not a great place for middle-class families." Yet young families, not single hipsters, will now be increasingly critical to urban success.
Rather than indulging feel-good radical experiments in social justice, cities need to rediscover their historical role as creators of the middle class, as Jane Jacobs put it. If they don't, some extraordinary areas — in brownstone Brooklyn, much of Manhattan, Seattle, west Los Angeles and San Francisco — will likely become ever more exclusive, divided between the rich and the hip (many of whom are their subsidized children) and surrounding poor populations working in low-end services (or not working).
The policy emphasis should shift to middle-income areas and closer suburbs, which could keep some younger families in the urban orbit. Such a shift will require a new kind of urban politics, one that encourages grassroots industries and corporate relocations that create more middle-income jobs; promotes the flourishing of human-scale neighborhoods; and accommodates families with good schools and low crime. The appeal of urban living remains viable, though today's urban political class sometimes seems determined to kill it.

What if everything you know about the suburbs is wrong?

The following is an excerpt from Architects Newspaper. The link to the full article can be found below. 

Joel Kotkin and Alan Berger: Suburbia is generally a lower-density area outside the city core. In our approach, we look for such things as predominance of single-family housing, dependence on automobiles (particularly for non-work trips), age of housing stock, and distance from central core. This is about 80 percent of U.S. metro areas; some cities, like Phoenix and San Antonio, are predominately suburban even within their city boundaries. Within the book we have no fewer than five leading authors who define suburbia using different quantitative methods that are arguably more accurate than the U.S. Census at capturing the activities defining suburbia.
What are some of the myths that surround the architecture and design community’s perception of the suburbs?
Berger: Globally, the vast majority of people are moving to cities not to inhabit their centers, but to suburbanize their peripheries. I’m sure we can all agree that there are many suburban (and urban) models that are wasteful, unsustainable, and inequitable. However, despite having deep historical roots in conceiving suburban environments, the planning and design professions overwhelmingly vilify suburbia and seem disinterested in significantly improving it. Robert Bruegmann’s essay in the book reminds us that those who consider themselves the intellectual elite have a long history of anti-suburban crusades, and they have always been proven wrong. Our book, Infinite Suburbia, is built for an alternative discourse that can open paths to improvement and design agency, rather than condemning suburbia altogether. Our goal? To construct a balanced, alternative discourse to architecture and urban planning orthodoxy of “density fixes all,” and in doing so ask: “Can suburbia become a more sustainable model for rethinking the entire urban enterprise, as a vital fabric of “complete urbanization?” 
What were some of the most surprising or counterintuitive things you found about the suburbs when compiling these essays?
Berger: One of the consistent themes in the book, and what gets me most excited as a landscape scholar, is the virtue of low density and the ecological potential of the suburban landscape. Environmentally, suburbs will save cities from themselves. Sarah Jack Hinners’s research in the book really surprised me. It suggests that suburban ecosystems, in general, are more heterogeneous and dynamic over space and time than natural ecosystems. Suburbs, she says, are the loci of novelty and innovation from an ecological and evolutionary perspective because they are a relatively new type of landscape and their ecology is not fixed or static.
Kotkin: Two trends that may seem counterintuitive to urbanists have been the rapid pattern of diversification in suburbs, which now hold most of the nation’s immigrants and minorities, as well as the fact that suburbs are more egalitarian and less divided by class than core cities.
What did you learn from studying some of the suburbs that aren’t the classic idyllic American suburb as we might see in the media?
Berger: Not surprisingly, the American Housing Survey found that more than 64 percent of all occupied American homes are single-family structures. But in other countries, suburban contexts are anything but low density, such as along the peri-urban edges of Indian cities and those spread across China and Southeast Asia. Globally, not all suburbs look alike or follow the “post Anglo Saxon, North American model.” One fact remains, however, which is that in many parts of the world upward mobility is linked to suburban living.
How do you see suburbia changing in the next few decades?
Kotkin: Suburbs will change in many ways. First, they will continue to spread in those regions that have not employed strict growth controls. Denser development seems inevitable—such as The Domain [development] in north Austin—although [the suburbs] will remain largely surrounded by the single family and townhouses most people prefer. Although they already are, they will become more attractive to Millennials, who will demand fewer golf courses and conventional malls, and more hiking/biking trials and open, common landscapes. Suburbs will become more independent from the traditional city centers except for some amenities and central government services.
Berger: Autonomous driving will dramatically change how we live, particularly in suburbia, where the dominant form of mobility is cars. Once there is widespread adoption of electrified autonomous cars, dramatic sustainability dividends will flourish in the suburbs of the future. This may also take the economic strain off metro mass transit systems, which can focus on service improvements within the core areas rather than stretching outward. Shared autonomous vehicles will become the preferred form of mass transit in areas not serviced by traditional buses or rail.
What are the gentrification problems or other issues around the suburbanization of poverty?
Kotkin: Gentrification, often subsidized by governments, is driving poorer people from city cores to closer or—in some cases—more distant suburbs. These are usually places that are either far from workplaces or have a less desirable housing stock. Yet suburbanization of poverty needs to be put in context of the massive overall population advantage of suburbs; overall poverty rates in cities remain twice as high as those of suburbs, and the pattern has not changed much in the past decade.
What can designers or planners take from the book? Is there a role for traditional planning at this scale, when market forces are so strong?
Berger: Readers should convincingly take away the enormous opportunity ahead in designing more sustainable and equitable suburbs and the importance of suburban fabric to the entire urban enterprise. This is systemically evident from social, economic, environmental, and design perspectives. Of course, there is great agency awaiting designers and planners in the new suburbia. We created them in the first place, so we have a responsibility to evolve the forms and forces toward more sustainable futures.

The Suburban Surge

The following is an excerpt  from an article in the Daily Beast by Joel Kotkin and Alan Berger. The article, titled "The Urban Revival Is an Urban Myth, and the Suburbs Are Surging" speaks about the suburban surge in the United States that has been occurring for the last several years. The link for the complete article can be found below.

The past decade has seen a gusher of books arguing for and detailing the supposed ascendency of dense urban cores, like the inimitable Edward Glaeser’s influential Triumph of the City: How Our Greatest Invention Makes Us Richer, Smarter, Greener, Healthier, and Happier, and about the ’burbs as the slums of the future, abandoned by businesses and young people, like Leigh Gallagher’s The End of the Suburbs: Where the American Dream Is Moving.
But as we show in Infinite Suburbia, the new book we co-edited, the vast majority of American economic and demographic growth continues to take place there.
Let’s Start With People.
Cities are about people. Where they move suggests their reasonable aspirations.
Even when Levittown was being built 70 years ago, there has always been a portion of the population—particularly the young, well-educated, affluent and often childless—that craves the density and excitement of downtown (CBD) life. But this group—heavy with members of the media—consequently attracts vastly outsized attention.
In fact, 151 million people live in America’s suburbs and exurbs, more than six times the 25 million people who live in the urban cores (defined as CBDs with employment density of 20,000+ people per square mile, or places with a population density of 7,500+ people per square mile—the urban norm before the advent of the automobile) of the 53 metropolitan areas with populations over 1 million.
In fact, 10 of those 53 metropolitan areas (including Charlotte, Orlando, Phoenix, and San Antonio) have no urban core at all by this measure, according to demographer Wendell Cox. The New York City metropolitan area is America’s only one where more people live in the urban core than in the suburbs—and it’s about an even split there.
In the last decade, about 90 percent of U.S. population growth has been in suburbs and exurbs, with CBDs accounting for .8 percent of growth and the entire urban corps for roughly 10 percent. In this span, population growth of some of the most alluring core cities—New York, Chicago, Philadelphia—has declined considerably. Manhattan and Brooklyn, have both seen their rate of growth decline by more than 85 percent since 2011. Nationally, core counties lost over 300,000 net domestic migrants In 2016 (with immigrants replacing some some of those departees), while their suburbs gained nearly 250,000.
Three key groups—seniors, minorities, and millennials—all prefer the suburbs.
More than 10,000 boomers turn 65 each day; between 2015 and 2025, the number of senior households, according to the Joint Center on Housing Studies at Harvard University, will grow by 10.7 million. By 2050, the over-65 population will have doubled to 80 million.
Despite much talk about seniors moving “back to the city,” the Census numbers suggest the opposite. Since 2010, the senior population in core cities has gone up by 621,000—compared to 2.6 million in the suburbs. The share of seniors in both the inner core and older suburbs (those built before 1980) dropped between 2000 and 2010, while it’s grown substantially in newer suburbs and exurbs. A recent survey by Pulte Homes found that most boomers are seeking places near nature and with large garages; not exactly what you are likely to find, much less afford, in San Francisco. The “back to the city” phenomena, like many urban trends, is largely restricted to the wealthy.
Minorities, too, have headed for suburbia. Already the majority of African Americans in the nation’s one hundred largest metros live in the suburbs; in 1990, 57 percent lived in inner cities. Since 2000, reports Brookings, the percentage of immigrants living in suburbs has shot up five points, to 61 percent. Overall,76 percent of the growth in the foreign-born population between 2000 and 2013 in the largest metro areas occurred in the suburbs.
More than one-third of the 13.3 million new suburbanites between 2000 and 2010 were Hispanic, with whites accounting for one-fifth of suburban growth in that period. And as Asians have become the biggest immigrant group arriving in America, many are skipping cities altogether. The Asian population in suburban areas grew 66.2 percent between 2000 and 2012, nearly twice the 34.9 increase in the core urban population.
But the most significant shift relates to Millennials. Roughly two-thirds of them, according to a recent Wall Street Journal survey, want a suburban experience for their future families. Census data, as analyzed by the website 538, shows that not only are people aged 25 to 29 about 25 percent more likely to move to a suburb than city, but that 30 to 44 year olds are leaving cities for suburbs at a much faster clip than they did in the 1990s. The National of Realtors sees the same trend, with young buyers shifting to suburban locations.
Some of this reflects the consequence of success in some cities, expressed in soaring prices, but much of the change is fundamentally about growing up. Research by economist Jed Kolko shows that urban residence continues to drop precipitously with age. This also comports with the findings of surveys from the Conference Board, the Urban Land Institute, and the National Association of Homebuilders, which found that 75 percent of millennials favor settling in a suburban  house, but only 10 percent in the urban core.
This process will accelerate as millenials begin, albeit often later than previous generations, to start families. Some 1.3 million millennial women gave birth for the first time in 2015, raising the total number of U.S. women in this generation who have become mothers to more than 16 million.
The Economic Equation
Given the population numbers, much of the argument for cities boils down to the idea that dense, vibrant urban cores are by nature far more productive than their suburban counterparts. Again, the economic numbers tell a different tale. Less than 20 percent of the jobs in metropolitan America are in CBDs and inner rings—a share that’s held steady since 2010.
And despite suburban population growth, the poverty rate there remains roughly half what it is in the core cities. What suburbia dominates is the geography of the professional middle class. Primarily suburban areas account for 16 of the top 20 big counties with the highest percentage of households earning over $75,000 annually. Similarly, all but a handful of the counties with the highest percentage of households earning over $200,000 annually are suburban.
Nor is tech becoming more urban. With the exception of San Francisco (now the Silicon Valley’s urban annex, with young employees bused out from the urban core to suburban campuses) and to some extent Seattle (although much of the tech workforce there lives in the surrounding suburbs), the most rapid expansion of tech has been in suburban areas, including in sunbelt cities like Charlotte, Raleigh, and Austin. Urban theorist Richard Florida estimates that three-quarters of patents come from areas with 3,500 of fewer people per square mile—less than half of the density associated with urban cores.
The financial elites in Manhattan or the tech billionaires in San Francisco may be more conspicuous, but when the Center for Demographics and Policy at Chapman University surveyed professionals earlier this year, we found that most young and middle aged professionals are more focused on family lifestyle issues like good schools, open space and affordability than on such as  cultural amenities and nightlife.
Suburbs and Health
A few years ago, The Wall Street Journal published an article with the headline “City vs. Country: Who Is Healthier?” It neglected to mention that it appears that suburbs are healthier than either. In research supported by the County Health Rankings and Roadmaps Program, a joint program of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute, suburbs topped both urban and rural areas in 10 of 29 factors that influence health, and had residents who generally enjoyed a better health-related quality of life.
Planners, policy makers, and those who shape our metro areas should acknowledge the ways that suburbs can be healthier, and work to reinforce these factors while helping to mitigate the bad ones. For instance, Los Angeles’ planners keep squeezing people into denser housing along congested highways despite overwhelming evidence that many people living there will develop health problems.
Dense urban living has been linked to many new diseases (including psychosis, cancer, and cardiovascular disease) over the past decade, and new research contradicts the old narrative some architectural and urbanists are still spreading about the supposed healthiness of city living. Research shows that proximity and exposure to parks and outside spaces is linked to better health outcomes and life expectancy—and that the best place for most people to have this is in suburbia, given how difficult and expensive it would be to dramatically expand park spaces in densely populated cities.
Are Suburbs Killing the Planet?
The mass movement that environmentalism became in the United States arose mainly in suburbs. As historian Chris Sellers details in Infinite Suburbia, The Nature Conservancy was an invention of the suburban East Coast. The fight against pollution—the single-most critical issue for U.S. environmentalists by the late 1960s—was largely led and supported by suburbanites. The environmental political project defended a nature that was not remote, pristine, or “out there,” but an immediate and suburbanized nature.
There are many environmental benefits latent within suburban open space, capacities that can contribute to the reduction of the overall environmental impact of metro areas. Suburban space has the potential for constructed wetlands to improve water quality and resiliency in metropolitan areas at large. Carbon sequestration can be done better by large trees in suburbia than almost any other landscape type. City centers can import surplus suburban renewable energy captured through rooftop solar, access locally grown organic food and or stored and recycled water. In these ways the suburb becomes crucial to the environmental part of the entire urban enterprise.
Looking Forward
As American families and business continue to vote with their lives and dollars for the suburbs, the only way to stop suburban growth is “forcefully,” as The Economist recently put it and as political class is attempting to do in increasingly feudalized California. Yet to kill suburbs—or try and convert them into high density cities—is to stomp on the aspirations of middle class families, immigrants, minorities and seniors. It is not, to say the least, a long-term winning political formula.
To be sure suburbs, already more diverse, could also become more interesting, and add more open space and commons, particularly with the onset of autonomous cars which can significantly reduce the paving in such environments. They could also serve as a safety valve for people priced out of the premier urban areas.
The legendary landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted, who designed both Central and Prospect Park as well as several iconic suburban neighborhoods, considered suburbs a natural progression of urbanization: He said in 1868: “no great town can long exist without great suburbs.”
The challenge today remains making great suburbs to fulfill the potential of full urban life. The suburbs—where most Americans experience urban life—deserve not the disdain of planners and politicians and pundits, but their full respect and attention.

The Existing Democratic Majority (New York Times)

The dialogue of the political power of the suburbs has become more prevelant in recent years. With the election of Donald Trump in the US and the vote for "leave" in the Brexit referendum, people have started to look for answers on who the defining electorate is. The growing belief is that the topping point of elections and the true battleground for elections is now the suburbs.

Below is an article from the New York TImes written by David Brooks of NBC’s Meet the Press. Brooks offers some more insight into this. 

We’re all familiar with a certain political geography. Democrats win the cities, Republicans win the rural areas, and the battlegrounds are in the suburbs. In general, Democrats win the denser inner-ring suburbs where there are lots of professionals — doctors, lawyers, teachers. Republicans win the sprawling outer-ring suburbs, where there are lots of office parks and midlevel corporate managers.
Northern Virginia has always embodied this familiar suburban divide. Democrats have done well in inner-ring towns like Arlington. Republicans have done well in outer-ring boomburbs like Loudon County. In 2004, for example, George W. Bush trounced John Kerry in Loudoun County by 55.7 percent to 43.6 percent.
But we’re living in an age of global populism, a historic transition as profound as those in 1848, 1905 and 1968. Around the world, the old political divides are being replaced, and political geographies are being redrawn. One way to capture the emerging divide is by using the British writer David Goodhart’s distinction between Somewheres and Anywheres.
Somewheres are rooted in their towns and have “ascribed” identities — Virginia farmer, West Virginia coal miner, Pennsylvania steelworker. Anywheres are at home in the global economy. They derive their identity from portable traits, like education or job skills, and are more likely to move to areas of opportunity.
Somewheres value staying put; they feel uncomfortable with many aspects of cultural and economic change, like mass immigration. Anywheres make educational attainment the gold standard of status and are cheerleaders for restless change.
This template for analyzing our politics is as explanatory as any. Recently, for example, Michael Kruse had a fine article in Politico about Trump supporters in Johnstown, Pa. The people he described are classic Somewheres. The steel mills are gone and everybody sort of knows that they are never coming back, but the people remain. The things they value are there, they don’t really have the skills to pack up and be an Anywhere, and they love Trump because he sticks his finger in the eyes of the Anywheres who have made their world worse.
The thing about this new set of battle lines is this: It redraws the political map. The cities are dominated by Anywheres. The rural areas are dominated by Somewheres. But the growing suburbs are no longer divided. They are Anywhere all the way through. Last Tuesday, exurban Loudoun County went Democratic 60 to 40 percent. That’s nearly the same as inner-ring Fairfax County, which went Democratic 67 to 31 percent.
These days, only a tiny percentage of Northern Virginia workers are government employees. Instead, the region is defined by the two big drivers of Anywhere culture: highly educated information age workers and fiercely energetic immigrants. In Bailey’s Crossroads, there are Korean grocery stores near Persian, Indian and Salvadoran restaurants. The Dulles office corridor is a hub of the global economy.
Trump’s party is not at home on this ground and can’t play on it. Trumpians just want to wall it off. “DC should annex NOVA and return the governance of Virginia to Virginians!” Jerry Fallwell Jr. tweeted, referring to Northern Virginia, after the election results.
Populism has made the Republicans a rural party and given the Democrats everything else. In Virginia, Democrats won by a landslide among anybody who grew up in the age of globalization. Among voters 18-29, they won by an astounding 69 to 30 percent. Among voters 30-44, they won by 61 percent to 37 percent.
We could be seeing the creation of a new Democratic heartland, exurbia, and this alignment could hang around for a while. The stain Trump leaves on the G.O.P. will take some time to wash away. But this is bigger than Trump; it’s an alignment caused by the fundamental reality of the populist movement.
But does this mean Democratic dominance is baked in the cake? Here I would say, not so fast. It’s worth remembering that the Democrats don’t quite deserve this victory. It didn’t come about because of some masterly Democratic strategy. The Democrats won because the Republicans decided to shrink their coalition.
And it’s worth looking around the world and noting that center-left parties are in decline across Europe and beyond. These parties have lost touch with working class voters and are finding they can’t simply replace them with a mixture of identity politics and faculty lounge populism. What we’re seeing around the world is not the rise of left-wing dominance but the decline of major parties and the fragmentation of political parties across the board.
The crucial question going forward is what will the Democrats do? Will they make places like Loudon County their heartland, or will they amputate themselves the way the Republicans did, and retreat back to the cities?
Here’s how you can tell which way the Democrats are going. If they talk mostly about oligarchy and rich financiers, they are retreating to their base. But if they talk about mobility — geographic mobility, economic and social mobility, intellectual and spiritual mobility, they are talking the language of the suburbs. And if they have practical plans to enhance universal mobility, the age of Democratic dominance will be at hand.

Working Poor on the Rise in Scarborough, Says Think Tank Tesearcher (InsideToronto)

Thanks to InsideToronto for covering our last event!

Please see below for an excerpt of the article: 

Working poverty is on the rise, and in the case of much of Scarborough, it’s accelerating.
That’s the argument of John Stapleton, a social policy researcher with the Mowat Centre think tank and former government bureaucrat for nearly 30 years with the Ontario Ministry of Community and Social Services. Despite growth in other parts of Toronto, he sees a rise in income inequality, particularly north of Hwy. 401.
“All those trends we saw before are now accelerating, certainly in Scarborough,” said Stapleton following his talk at an event Wednesday, Nov. 2 in Scarborough organized by the Institute for New Suburbanism.  “You can see the growth of working poverty among people who have to live further away from where the jobs are.”
While the downtown core and other affluent areas of the city become further “Manhattanized” from runaway land values and an unprecedented construction boom, that’s not the case in Scarborough and North York where working poverty rises as low-income earners get increasingly pushed to edges of the outer suburbs and out of the city.
That effect makes it appear poverty is on the wane, but in reality it’s only migrated to areas which are more affordable.
“You are seeing eradication there because rents and house prices are pushing it away,” said Stapleton.
The working poor are frequently invisible because their incomes place them just above the poverty line, making them largely ineligible for social assistance, even though they barely make a living wage. Before the long-form census was reinstated, voluntary household surveys virtually guaranteed an inaccurate picture since most people don’t consider themselves to be poor or rich, but middle class.
But the whole-scale collapse of manufacturing due to free trade and automation has resulted in a hollowing out of the traditional suburban middle class resulting in an increase in income polarization, said Stapleton. This is seen in the composition of shopping malls once dominated by the likes of middle-income department stores like Sears, now being replaced by a plethora of dollar stores or high-end luxury outlets.
“These changes mirror the changes in the labour market,” said Stapleton.
The lack of transit options also plays a role in poverty, but he dismissed the idea the Scarborough subway extension will massively boost the fortunes of the working poor, since its primary purpose is to push more people into the downtown core.
“The narrative is Scarborough is not treated well because we don’t have transit and we need a subway to ferry the people to pour the coffee and clean offices downtown,” he said. “That’s not how Scarborough (transit riders) looks at transit.”
Stapleton sees  some relief coming for the working poor in the increase of the provincial hourly minimum wage to $14 as of January and up an additional dollar by 2019. He said a livable wage could push individuals a little more above the poverty line. 
"We'll have to see what happens with jobs, but if everyone gets a boost we might see a time where we have reductions," he said.

We Must Not Leave Our Suburbs Behind

The following excerpt is from an article titled "We Must Not Leave Our Suburbs Behind" written by Paul Hunter. Paul is the Head of Research at the UK's Smith Institute and has extensively researched suburban areas and a suburban renaissance. Paul will be joining us at our upcoming INS event on November 1st, please see our Events page or visit

If you were to imagine a place of comfortable affluence which was relatively safe, if a tad boring, the chances are what would spring to mind would look a little suburban. It should perhaps come as no surprise that our minds make the mental leap to conjure up images of semi-detached houses, tree-lined streets and ample front gardens. It is certainly the picture of suburbia that has been pushed in culture and by each generation’s Mad Men.
Such suburban prospects and aspirations, whether blue collar or middle class, have however been looked down upon and sneered at: Metroland scorned for its mock-Tudor homes and suburbanites satirised for social climbing. Yet, this has always belied the attractiveness of suburbs to large numbers of the population.
But our cities are changing, and their suburbs today face a different type of challenge. Masked by the stereotype and counterintuitive to the idea of suburbs as places of wealth, the evidence paints a picture of decline. This comes at a time when a suburban renaissance is critical to meeting people’s housing aspirations and needs by delivering the new homes so acutely needed.
Urban renaissance and suburban decline?
The turn of this century marked a new dawn for urban areas. Out of the ashes of the 1980s inner-city riots and economic decline has risen reimagined and thriving city centres. An urban renaissance, which has changed the way we think about our modern cities.
Little time, however, has been expended on examining the flipside: What this might mean for our city suburbs? An oversight rendered more puzzling by the location of the political conflagrations and revolts of the last few years. The image of the 2012 London riots was the family-run carpet shop in flames not in Brixton, Tottenham or Hackney, but Croydon. And then last year suburbs delivered a more peaceful form of insurgency through the Brexit ballot box. Whilst few (22%) in hipster Hackney voted to leave, travel to Barking and Dagenham and three times as many did. The picture was replicated in many of our major conurbations. In Oldham 60% voted to leave while only 40% did in metropolitan Manchester.
Looking at the data it is unsurprising that many were dissatisfied with the status quo. Research by the Smith Institute has shown that the number of jobs in suburbs has stagnated over the last decade. Inner London, for example, created 500,000 jobs between 2003 and 2013. In outer London it was just 8,000. Jobs performed by suburban residents increased at a slower rate than in urban areas. In Manchester, suburban resident job numbers increased by 6%, compared with a 47% rise in urban areas.
Poverty has become more concentrated in some suburban areas. In London, official data shows that there are now more people in poverty in outer London than inner London (over the last decade, poverty has risen from 20% to 24% of the suburban population). Working-age means-tested benefits have on the whole increased at a faster rate in suburbs. Suburbs have also seen a rise in the proportion of the most deprived areas within their cities.
House prices over the last 20 years have also increased more rapidly in urban areas. On average, housing in outer London is more affordable than in inner areas. In the West Midlands and Greater Manchester, the most affordable places to live have increasingly become suburban areas (e.g. in 1995, 70% of the cheapest 10% of areas in the West Midlands were suburban; by 2014 that figure had risen to almost 90%). In the three cities, social housing has declined over recent years, but most rapidly in urban areas. The private rented sector (PRS), meanwhile, has grown in both suburban and urban areas. The combination of prices rising faster in inner areas and social housing declining more slowly in outer areas means lower-cost housing is increasingly located in suburbs.
The situation could become much worse. Changes in local housing allowance appear to be changing where people in London can live. For example, the number of people claiming local housing allowance has fallen in inner areas and risen in outer London. This suggests that more low-income people are locating, and will have to locate, to the suburbs. The sharp decline in new social housing in inner city areas and the increasing purchasing power of the urban homeowners will merely exacerbate this trend. Lower-income households will have to turn to private rented housing, which is increasingly more affordable in suburbs.
Suburbs will increasingly be home to larger proportion of our cities’ poorer population. The ramifications for policy makers, anti-poverty campaigners and most of all those on low incomes are multifarious. For many bus travel is the only affordable means of travel. However, with more lower income people living in suburbs and more jobs located centrally, how attractive is it for someone to travel two hours to do a part-time shift on the minimum wage (let alone for someone with caring duties)? With cities desperately needing to build more houses how do we ensure those on low incomes are not isolated from jobs and services? And how do we provide services for those on low incomes in lower density suburbs?
Towards a suburban renaissance
These challenges demand urgent intervention. Decline may not be uniform and some suburbs remain overwhelmingly the preserve of the wealthy. Nevertheless, evidence on housing, the economy, labour markets and poverty indicators suggest many suburbs and suburban residents are feeling the strain of a changing spatial distribution of wealth and opportunities in our cities.
A critical component to addressing the problems suburbs face and supporting low income households living in city suburbs will be getting the housing offer right. Higher densities can support more sustainable suburbs (including better transport links) and help meet the challenges of household growth that all cities face. With many of the new homes being built designed for young professionals in inner cities, focus on suburban housing could help those, on low incomes or more comfortably off, embarking on life as a family (most people’s vision of the good society would aim to support families not aiming to make life more difficult). And with land scarce and often expensive in inner cities, suburbs can also deliver new homes which are affordable for more people and help limited subsidy go further.
Such interventions support our suburbs but would also deliver the new homes cities so desperately need. More generally the success of the city is as much about its suburbs as it is about the urban core. If suburbs are not attractive places to live, then will people remain in the city? Is the city a successful place if poorer people in suburbs cannot access work, or if the traffic is so bad that it detrimentally affects people’s quality of life? But within the discussions about what kind of cities we want, there are normative choices, not least around mixed communities and social justice. At one extreme, city growth could be based on letting the market rip. Housing would be allocated by market power rather than need, and inequality would go unchecked. Concentrations of deprivation would not be seen as a social ill but an inevitable consequence of growth. The alternative is a better balance between places and improved affordability and quality of life. The economic imperative to ensure that all people can access work, are healthy and well housed, have access to a decent school and education, and can afford to live decently in our cities should be apparent.
This means suburban areas cannot be left to deteriorate, but neither should renewal be achieved by displacing growth or people. Instead, it means extending opportunity to poorer suburban residents, for them to fulfil their potential. But if there is to be any type of suburban renaissance, the suburbs first need to be seen as an important policy issue. But suburbia rarely features in the political discourse or public debate. This has to change. Indeed, the case for setting out a popular and inspiring agenda for the places where most of us live, at a time when their fortunes seem to be flagging, seems self-evident. The government could take the initiative and establish a suburban taskforce to form consensus, test new ideas and lay the foundations of a suburban renaissance so that all suburbs can be places of delightful prospects. After all the good society, surely means providing the opportunity for everyone, in all places to be able to lead the Good Life.

The INS is extremely excited to welcome Paul Hunter on November 1st, and we hope to see you there!

Americans’ Shift To The Suburbs Sped Up Last Year

The Following in an excerpt from an article titled “Americans’ Shift To The Suburbs Sped Up Last Year” from March, 2017. In this article, Jed Kolko, Chief Economist at, described how the suburbanization of America is continuing and outpacing the growth of many cities. This is obviously contrary to what many believe about the growth of cities and urbanization.

Furthermore, Kolko views this as being an ongoing trend rather than anomy. In fact, Kolko states that population growth in big cities slowed for the fifth-straight year, while population growth accelerated in the more sprawling counties that surround them. If this is true, planners and politicians need to be aware that suburban communities may not be a dying breed and more emphasis may need to be placed on them going forward.

The link to the full article on FiveThirtyEight can be found at the end of this post.

The suburbanization of America marches on. Population growth in big cities slowed for the fifth-straight year in 2016,1 according to new census data, while population growth accelerated in the more sprawling counties that surround them.
The Census Bureau on Thursday released population estimates for every one of the more than 3,000 counties in the U.S. I grouped those counties into six categories: urban centers of large metropolitan areas; their densely populated suburbs; their lightly populated suburbs; midsize metros; smaller metro areas; and rural counties, which are outside metro areas entirely.2
The fastest growth was in those lower-density suburbs. Those counties grew by 1.3 percent in 2016, the fastest rate since 2008, when the housing bust put an end to rapid homebuilding in these areas. In the South and West, growth in large-metro lower-density suburbs topped 2 percent in 2016, led by counties such as Kendall and Comal north of San Antonio; Hays near Austin; and Forsyth, north of Atlanta.
Those figures run counter to the “urban revival” narrative that has been widely discussed in recent years. That revival is real, but it has mostly been for rich, educated people in particular hyperurban neighborhoods rather than a broad-based return to city living. To be sure, college-educated millennials — at least those without school-age kids — took to the city, and better-paying jobs have shifted there, too. But other groups — older adults, families with kids in school, and people of all ages with lower incomes — either can’t afford or don’t want an urban address.

Worst off were rural areas. Counties outside of metropolitan areas, where 14 percent of Americans live, shrank slightly (-0.04 percent) in 2016, the sixth-straight year of population decline. Nonmetro areas in the Northeast and Midwest had larger losses. Nonmetro America has the slowest job and wage growth, as well.

The broad national trends hide some dramatic and surprising swings in local population. Here are a few of the places that are on their way up or down in the 2016 population data:

Please click the source link below for the rest of the article.


The Growth of Suburban Poverty

The INS next event will feature speakers Paul Hunter and John Stapleton to discuss suburban poverty. Suburban poverty is an issue that is being seen more and more globally. Paul Hunter in his analysis Towards a Suburban Renaissance: An Agenda for our City Suburbs, Paul Hunter addresses the issue of surburban poverty in the UK and suggests a "new agenda" for the suburbs. On a more local level, John Stapleton also identifies similar issues in his research on The Working Poor in the Toronto Region.

With rising home prices, online retailers displacing local retail workers, and the transition of manufacturing jobs moving overseas, suburban communities are struggling to compete and survive and the issue of suburban poverty is on the rise. Due to this, politicians and planners need to develop strategies to respond to this is their communities.

Below is an excerpt from a CityLab article titled Confronting the Myths of Suburban Poverty by Tanvi Misra that discusses many of the topics that will be seen at our upcoming event: 

There’s nothing new about suburban poverty, but in the popular imagination, it’s often not regarded as much of a problem. Instead, the “inner cities”—code for poor, black urban communities—receive the brunt of the attention (if not the resources).
While some communities have grappled with local solutions, by and large, the rising poverty in the American suburbs has been allowed to fester and grow, catalyzed by the Great Recession. At the same time, who lives in the suburbs has changed. As cities become more expensive, immigrants and communities of color have made a home for themselves outside the urban core—only to come face-to-face with the same issues they left behind.
In his new book, Places in Need, Scott Allard, a professor of public policy at the University of Washington, dives into layers of data on the changing geography of poverty, debunking misperceptions about which suburbs are getting poorer—and why. CityLab caught up with him for a conversation.
Does every type of suburb have a poverty problem?
A lot of our discourse around suburban poverty says, “Well, suburban probably is really a problem for old inner-tier suburbs that are bordering higher poverty neighborhoods in cities.” But poverty is pervasive across the suburban regions of all metro areas, whether they’re new or old. In fact, the rates of change have been more severe in newer suburbs—those built after 1970—than in older suburbs. When you break out the suburban regions, there are more poor people in the newer suburbs combined than in the older suburbs. That’s an important finding.
Having said that, there’s quite a bit of variation. You can find older or newer suburbs that saw severe increases in poverty and you can find others where things haven’t changed all that much.
The difference in the experience of poverty in older suburbs compared to the newer suburbs is often one of distance from the central city. There are transportation and job access issues that low-income adults face. They matter everywhere, but the distances are just greater in the outer-ring suburbs. Low-income households in both types of communities often experience isolation from opportunity, racial segregation, and a marginalization from politics. Residents may not be represented in local elected bodies. This is particularly true for immigrants and people of color.
You argue in the book that suburban poverty is everybody’s problem. What demographic evidence from your research backs up that claim?
What you see is fairly consistent increases in poverty across race and ethnic groups in the suburbs. The increases among whites are large and substantial, as are increases among blacks and Hispanics. Whites are a plurality of poor people in suburbs, still.
There are a couple of other demographic changes that are important to realize here, too. One is the increase in the share of households in suburbs that are single-parent households. And we know those households are are most vulnerable to falling into poverty. The places in suburbs where poverty problems have become particularly acute are where a larger share of the population doesn’t have advanced training or education past high school.
One of the realities of the rise of suburban poverty is that it hasn’t corresponded with a decrease in urban poverty. We just lack the capacity to tackle the problem in suburban areas.
That reflects the reality of today’s labor market, where there are no longer large numbers of good-paying, low-skilled jobs in suburban regions. And the jobs that are available to workers without college degrees or some advanced training often don’t lift their families out of poverty.
You also complicate the notion that these places are becoming poorer solely because of an influx of poor immigrants and poor people of color. What’s the role that migration plays in the suburbanization of poverty?
One of the common narratives around rising poverty problems in the suburbs is that this is the result of poor families moving from the central city out. Sure, in some places, increases in poverty are related to out-migration from the cities. But those migration trends have been present for more than 50 years. For decades, middle-class and lower-income households have been moving from cities to suburbs, looking for more affordable homes, safer neighborhoods, better schools, and more community amenities. That pattern persists today, but is not likely to be the largest or most important factor in many places. In fact, the most important factor is change in the labor market—the decline of the number of good-paying low-skilled jobs.
Immigration to the U.S. is an important demographic trend related to the shifting geography of poverty. Today, more immigrants to the U.S. locate in suburbs upon arrival than at any point in American history. And these immigrant families are working often multiple jobs but not earning enough to lift their families out of poverty. Some communities have seen really significant increases in the number of immigrants from around the globe. But it’s something that all communities have experienced—urban, suburban, and rural for that matter. And again, that’s not the largest factor driving these trends.
You see that because the increasing number of poor people in suburbs is about three times the rate of population growth. That means that there are lots of people who have lived in suburbs for a long time who either have been poor, or who have fallen into poverty over over time.
Why are suburbs so ill-equipped to deal with this problem?
Since the war on poverty, federal and state investments in anti-poverty programs have largely been funneled into urban centers and urban counties. And we’ve built extensive nonprofit human service capacity in our cities. There’s good reason for that: In the 1960s, poverty was highly concentrated in cities and it remains so. One of the realities of the rise of suburban poverty is that it hasn’t corresponded with a decrease in urban poverty. But we just lack that similar capacity to tackle the problem in suburban areas. Our public investments need to keep pace with the changing geography of poverty.
One reason why we lack nonprofit human service capacity relates to the perception gap that we have about poverty being urban. In many suburban regions, nonprofits have a hard time attracting funding from charitable foundations, partly because those foundations aren’t aware of poverty problems in the suburbs of their metros, or they can’t make grants outside the city.
On top of that, when you when you try deliver human service programs across suburban regions, you encounter a lot of fragmentation. A typical food bank in a large metro may have to work across several county borders, dozens of municipalities, and lots of different school districts. That work can be difficult. Not all communities are supportive or have the resources to support the mission. That fragmentation also creates competitive pressures where no one is really eager to commit their own resources to anti-poverty programs, because they may be worried about their public image. No suburban community wants to be thought of as a poor place. Some places also worry that if they provide anti-poverty services, they will end up attracting poor people, even though that’s not likely to be the case.
How do you think things are likely to change under the current administration?
One of the false narratives I push back against in the book is that poverty is a problem for cities, and in particular for people of color. That’s a big element of the political rhetoric of this administration. Poverty problems are in all our communities. They affect all types of families of all races and ethnicities. That rhetoric creates an “othering” of poverty, and it undermines our support for safety net programs and services. Rhetoric really matters—it directly shape how we think of our responsibilities and who we think of as deserving of help.
The federal budget proposals that are being discussed and the health care bills will undermine some of the most critical, responsive parts of the safety net. The SNAP program, for example, is one of our most successful, impactful anti-poverty programs.  It is really responsive to poverty no matter where it exists. The same is true for the Earned Income Tax Credit, a program that runs through the tax code. We should be doing things to expand, enhance, and strengthen those programs or at least maintain our commitments to them. The current federal budget [proposals] don’t do that.
They also aren’t going to do anything to strengthen the service provider capacity in the suburbs. In fact, they will weaken what little infrastructure exists dramatically. A lot of services provided to low-income households are financed through Medicaid, for example. [These and other cuts to the safety net] are going to be lead to a double-whammy in the next recession.
What are your recommendations to decrease suburban poverty?
One, we need to maintain our public commitments to the safety net programs we know are most effective at reducing poverty. There's also reason to think that we should be expanding our federal investments for services so that we can build capacity in suburban and rural communities.
We also need to think about our private commitments. Part of this is getting beyond some of the perception gaps and making sure that we're expanding personal philanthropy to support work in suburban and rural places.
And then finally, we need to start to think of ways we can cultivate and train the next generation of local nonprofit leaders. These are young people who are from communities of color, from communities of that have experienced increases in poverty, who can not only think about innovative solutions but also also implement those solutions with trust from the community and cultural competency.
We’re not likely to solve poverty problems in cities or suburbs if we don’t act together as metro regions. Our labor markets are intimately intertwined and there’s good reason to believe that our anti-poverty efforts are intimately intertwined. If we don’t work together to solve poverty problems that affect both places, we’re not likely to succeed at alleviating poverty in any place.

The Suburb of the Future, Almost Here

The following is an excerpt from an article that was originally published by the New York Times titled The Suburb of the Future, Almost Here: Millennials want a Different Kind of Suburban Development that is Smart, Efficient and Sustainable by Alan Berger. Please see the link below for the original article.

The suburbanization of America marches on. That movement includes millennials, who, as it turns out, are not a monolithic generation of suburb-hating city dwellers.
Most of that generation represents a powerful global trend. They may like the city, but they love the suburbs even more.
They are continuing to migrate to suburbs. According to the latest Census Bureau statistics, 25- to 29-year-olds are about a quarter more likely to move from the city to the suburbs as vice versa; older millennials are more than twice as likely.
Their future — and that of the planet — lies on the urban peripheries. Hurricanes Harvey and Irma made clear that, especially in suburbs, the United States desperately needs better drainage systems to handle the enormous amounts of rainfall expected from climate change.
They also made clear that new, sustainable suburbs can offer an advantage by expanding landscapes that can absorb water.
Housing affordability is a major driver of the appeal of suburbia, which has historically been, and still is, more affordable, especially for first-time home buyers.
Yet millennial suburbanites want a new kind of landscape. They want breathing room but disdain the energy wastefulness, visual monotony and social conformity of postwar manufactured neighborhoods. If new suburbs can hit the sweet spot that accommodates the priorities of that generation, millennial habitats will redefine everyday life for all suburbanites, which is 70 percent of Americans.
How can technology, revolutionary design and planning transform suburban living?
Climate will determine how environmental goals can be achieved in a given place: solar in the Sunbelt, say, or advanced water management in the rainy regions like the Pacific Northwest. Suburbs of the same age or size don’t share the same potential benefits or needs. Here are some ideas to shape future suburbs into smart, efficient and more sustainable places to live.
Existing suburbs were developed to maximize house and lot sizes, and some are often locked into aesthetic compliance, like mowed lawns. These communities were also built around cars. Many residential developments offer small parks or playgrounds within walking distance, but require cars to get to bigger recreation areas.
In sustainable new suburbs, house and lot sizes are smaller — in part because driveways and garages are eliminated — paving is reduced up to 50 percent and landscapes are more flexible. The plant-to-pavement ratio of today’s suburb is much higher than that of cities, but the next generation of suburbs can be even better at absorbing water.
House and open community spaces are set among teardrop-shaped one-way roads, which encourage predictable, safe separation of pedestrians and moving vehicles. New suburban developments will utilize technology like autonomous electric cars (parked at solar-powered remote lots) and smart street lighting, which minimize energy use and harmful environmental impact.
Communities will share neighborhood amenities like public access areas, drone ports for deliveries, car pull overs (a wider shoulder in the road for pickup and drop-off) rather than private driveways and open common spaces.
Businesses also like locations on urban peripheries. That dynamic is helping to reshape suburbia’s traffic patterns, since many cars avoid urban centers. As cars move to renewable energy, emissions and road noise will diminish. In the near term, we should hope to see more efficient cars and on ride sharing.
Drones at your Doorstep
The use of drones will reduce the need for many car errands — and their emissions: With their unrestricted air space, suburban communities are likely to be first to receive package deliveries from the drones being tested by Amazon. They would be either hub-based, at Amazon warehouses, within 15 to 20 miles of customers, or truck-based, as with U.P.S. or Workhorse, in which a truck stops and a drone deploys. Small to medium packages — 86 percent of Amazon deliveries are under five pounds — can be handled by current drones and deliver to covered areas at doorways or at shared car pull-offs.
Cars that Park Themselves
In a future suburban development, a homeowner will order an autonomous car, via an app, from a remote solar-charging lot. As a car approaches, it will “talk” to a home: Lights and other utilities are activated or shut off for greater energy efficiency. Because these suburban homes will not have driveways or garages, front yards can be bigger, devoted to ecological functions or recreational activities.
A Smarter Landscape
The neighborhoods will be friendlier for pedestrians, with sidewalks and paths that connect to open spaces and communal areas. Before we had fenced-off backyards. In the future we’ll have common recreation spaces or vegetable gardens. Or they can be designed for shared landscape features like forest, vernal ponds or wetlands that help manage storm runoff and control flooding.
Climate change has resulted in heavier rainfall when storms do come, and there’s a need to store all of this water to prevent catastrophic urban flooding. Less pavement in suburbia means the ground absorbs more rain and snow and less storm water pours into heavily paved urban areas nearby.
Planners need to view cities, suburbs and exurbs not as discrete units but as regions, with one integrated environmental and technological system.
It’s rare that such a profound change of vision for the future is so close to being achievable. And the millennial generation, with their there’s-an-app-for-that outlook, is the one that will adopt it.
They find beauty in the utilitarian, and they know just how quickly radical technologies can change everything — including the suburb they want to call home.

What if the Suburbs went on Forever?

The following is an excerpt from an article that was originally published by the Boston Globe titled What if the Suburbs went on Forever? by Kevin Hartnett. Please see the link below for the original article.

Suburbia has a bad name. As a form of development, it’s associated with sprawl and waste, oversized homes, cookie-cutter communities, and a dreary dependence on automobiles. Yet suburban land is also where most people live — not just in the United States, but around the world — and a new exhibition at MIT argues that it’s time to start thinking seriously about what suburban development should look like.
“Urban planning doesn’t focus enough attention on suburbia, it focuses on making dense cities denser, which is where a minority of the world’s population wants to live,” says Alan Berger, a professor of landscape architecture and urban design at MIT and curator of the exhibition. “We should focus on where the majority of people are choosing to live, which is not a compact and dense lifestyle.”
The idea that the suburbs are the future is at odds with major currents of academic thought and popular culture. There, we imagine people piling into ever-higher high-rises, either as part of a sleek utopia or a grimy end-of-days scenario. In both cases, the future is set in cities. But that projection is at odds with trends on the ground. According to a 2014 United Nations report, only one in eight urban dwellers worldwide lives in dense megacities. The rest live in flat, distributed settlements outside of city centers, which Berger believes is a trend that will continue for decades.
“At the very precise moment that we’re looking and focusing on cities, one can ask, well, what about the rest?” says Pierre Bélanger, a professor of landscape architecture at the Harvard Graduate School of Design. “If you take all the cities in the world, you could fill up India. My question is, what about the rest?”
The rest is the subject of the “The Future of Suburbia” exhibition, which runs through April 2 and is being put on by MIT’s Center for Advanced Urbanism, where Berger serves as codirector. The exhibition features several parts, including photographs and video of suburban development around the world, and a model of what a well-planned suburban area of 3 million people might look like in the year 2100. Conceptually, the most unique feature of the model is that it presents a suburban area as a place unto itself — just like we’re accustomed to thinking about cities as places unto themselves — with no necessary attachment to any urban center. At the same time, the exhibition proposes ways in which the suburbs can provide services and ecological systems that support the city center — rather than simply serving as bedroom communities.
“We’ve spent a lot of time thinking about suburban development as being primarily made up of cul de sacs, single-family houses, parks, and schools,” says Bélanger, “but there are other patterns of development in the peripheries of these metropolitan areas that are not necessarily dependent on the [city] core.”
The model is created in a polycentric design, with nodes of dense development and attention throughout to aspects of planning that would allow a large suburban area to fully support itself in addition to its nearest center cities. Berger imagines this sustainability could be achieved through new smart energy microgrids, hydroponic food, and autonomous driving technologies deployed across the broad suburban plain.
“The whole thing works metabolically as holistic system,” Berger says. “The suburbs are actively providing resources like energy, storage, and waste disposal, and all those systems are built into the form of suburbia.”
It’s a vision that turns on a major reimagining of what we understand by the term suburban — or, as Bélanger prefers it, sub-urban — development. The MIT exhibition will be accompanied by the publication of a book, “Infinite Suburbia,” whose title gets at this idea. Now we think of the suburbs in terms of sprawl and assume that, after a certain distance, the concept exhausts itself. By contrast, the MIT exhibition asserts that, if developed correctly, there’s no reason the suburbs can’t go on forever.

Suburbia Gets No Respect, But It Could Become a Very Different Place

The following is an excerpt from an article that was originally posted on titled Suburbia Gets No Respect, But It Could Become a Very Different Place by Randy Rieland. Please see the link below for the original article.

For years now, Alan Berger has been hearing that the world’s future lies in its cities, that they are the destinations of a great migration, the places where everyone, particularly millennials, want to live. By contrast, according to conventional thinking, suburbia is becoming a dead zone.
In fact, notes Berger, a professor of landscape architecture and urban design at MIT, it’s just the reverse. While urban areas are gaining population, the growth is in the suburbs, not downtown. As for millennials, Berger points out that census data shows more are leaving cities than moving into them.
“People who are saying everyone will live in the city in the future aren’t reading the research,” he says.

The Impact of Driverless Cars
For his part, Berger takes suburbia very seriously, which, he admits, makes him an outlier in his field. “People are astonished why I would even want to study suburbia,” he acknowledges. “Urban planners do not study suburbia. Architects absolutely have nothing to do with suburban research.”
But he’s convinced that it’s the communities outside center cities that will be critical to sustaining urban areas as they evolve in the decades ahead. And so Berger, as co-director of MIT’s Center for Advanced Urbanism (CAU), recently helped organize a conference at the university titled, “The Future of Suburbia.” The meeting was the culmination of a two-year research project on how suburbs could be reinvented.
Speakers covered a wide range of subjects, from the important role suburban vegetation, including lawns, can play in reducing carbon dioxide levels, to suburbia’s growing racial and age diversity, to technological advances that may help transform it.
One such technology is the autonomous car, which is what Berger talked about. A lot of media attention has been paid to the prospect of fleets of driverless vehicles constantly circulating on downtown streets, but he says the invention’s greatest impact will be in the suburbs, which, after all, have largely been defined by how we use cars.  
“It will be in suburb-to-suburb commuting,” Berger says. “That’s the majority of movement in our country. As more autonomous cars come online, you’re going to see more and more suburbanization, not less. People will be driving farther to their jobs.”
With truly autonomous vehicles still years away, no one can say with much certainty if they will result in people spending less time in cars. But Berger does foresee one big potential benefit—much less pavement. Based on the notion that there likely will be more car-sharing and less need for multiple lanes since vehicles could continuously loop on a single track, Berger believes the amount of pavement in a suburb of the future could be cut in half. You would no longer need huge shopping center parking lots, or even driveways and garages.
Not only would fewer paved surfaces increase the amount of space that could be used for carbon-storing trees and plants, but it also would allow more water to be absorbed and reduce the risk of flooding in cities downstream.
That kind of interdependence between suburbs and downtowns is at the heart of how Berger and others at the CAU see the future. Instead of bedroom communities of cul-de-sacs and shopping malls, the suburbs they’ve imagined would focus on using more of their space to sustain themselves and nearby urban centers—whether it’s by providing energy through solar panel micro-grids or using more of the land to grow food and store water.
Their model of a future metropolitan area of 3 million people looks very different from what we’ve come to know. Rather than have neighborhoods continuously spreading outward from a downtown core, it presents a handful of dense clusters amid what Berger describes as a “big sea of suburban development that’s much more horizontal than vertical." It would, he says, function as a “kind of holistic sustainable machine.”
Taking Suburbia Seriously
It’s a bold vision, one that’s geared more to planning new suburbs around the world than transforming existing ones. But as hypothetical as this model may seem, it’s a first step at giving suburbia its due while redefining its role.  
“The reality is that the large majority of people want to live in suburbs,” says Joel Kotkin, a fellow of urban studies at Chapman University in California and the author of The Human City: Urbanism for the Rest of Us. “People make these choices for all kinds of reasons that urban theorists don’t pay attention to. They’d rather live in a detached house than in an apartment building. Or they can’t afford to live in the middle of a city. Or they’re worried about where their kids will go to school."
Kotkin adds, “You hear people say that the suburbs are going to become more and more dense and that they’re going to be for people who aren’t quite smart enough to live in the center city. But most people don’t want that kind of density. That’s not why they moved there.”
So, like Berger, he believes it’s time to start rethinking what suburbia can be and to become more strategic about how it evolves. Together, they’ve co-edited a book of articles and research that sharpens the focus on that challenge. Titled Infinite Suburbia, it will be published next year.
Berger does concede that there are times he feels he’s pushing a rock up a hill, given the common misconception that most of the world’s population is flocking into cities. He says that’s largely based on a United Nations report projecting that by 2050, 66 percent of the people on Earth will live in urban areas. The term “urban areas,” he points out, has been widely misinterpreted as meaning cities.
“Certainly, the world’s urbanizing, but it’s urbanizing in a much different way than cities,” he says. “It’s urbanizing horizontally.”
And that’s why he keeps pushing the rock.
“I’m not that interested in figuring out how to add more houses to cities and squeezing more people into smaller square footages," he says. "I’m interested in what people seem to actually want and how to make that better.”

Overall, this article by Randy Rieland highlights several main points that the Institute for New Suburbanism has been pushing since our launch in September of 2016. Rieland emphasizes that:

  • More millennials are leaving cities and moving to the suburbs because they want to
  • The impact of driveless cars will have a much more significant impact on suburbs than many expect
  • Planners have and uphill battle to fight when arguing that suburbs as useful as urban areas and have their own purpose

These arguments are becoming more and more predominant; however, significant changes have yet to be seen in the planning sphere. As more research is done, it will be interesting to view how decision-makes alter their hierarchical view of cities and suburbs.

Preparing For The Infinite Suburb

The following is an excerpt from a Q&A With Alan Berger and Joel Kotkin from Hyperloop One. Please see the link below for the original article.

You point to suburbia as a truly global phenomenon? What does this say about common values across cultures?
Joel: This reflects essential human desires for personal space, contact with nature, safety and, in some cases, better educational options. Dense cities are attractive particularly to those with high incomes and those without children. When people get into their thirties, and start contemplating a family, or simply a quieter life, they usually head to suburbia.
Why do the suburbs get such a bad rap?
Joel: It started early on in Britain, where suburbs offended many of the same people who are offended now — the intelligentsia, artists and gentry. Suburbs have been associated with crassness, ugliness and blamed for the decline of cities. Unlike urban cores, suburbs have few boosters; most media and major academic institutions are clustered in denser, inner city areas. Planning departments have long ignored them, or tried to figure out how to undermine them. Now, the greens are also a factor, weighing against suburban life. Simply put: everyone of consequence generally hates them, except for the vast majority of metropolitan residents who live there.
What do you think earlier proponents of moving from cites got wrong, how can we harness new technology in a way that offers greater choice and sustainability?
Joel: The initial problems came from not confronting such issues as quality of life, social space and walking opportunities. Some tract suburbs provided better, often more affordable housing, but with little in the way of social amenities. Fortunately this is changing in many new developments, as can be seen in places like Woodlands and Cinco Ranch outside Houston, or Valencia and Irvine in Southern California.
Alan: My research group at MIT is currently working on a project that envisions the future of the American suburb past 2060. We have focused on the continued development of polycentricity in metropolitan areas and a tendency to expand in space as transportation technology, infrastructure, and policies allow. The framework of polycentricity will be carried forward because of spatial economics and the lowering cost of distance to affect location decisions. This future could plausibly include Level 5 autonomy (no human intervention required) for most vehicles in operation, where all driving situations can be handled by an autonomous driving system (car, truck, or all-terrain vehicle). Zero carbon emissions and Level 5 automation are absolutely in the near future, probably before Generation Z is buying cars for themselves.
Personal transportation modes will remain dominant in suburbia, but shared automobiles will transform the need for bus/rail service in suburbs. All of this assumes that consumer adoption and regulatory approval are achievable and that there is ubiquitous, reliable, and secure, low-cost wireless connectivity to the Internet-of-Things. Research suggests that level 5 autonomy will lead to 80% accident reduction.
The new spatial economics of automation will create huge environmental dividends. Reduced paving will lead to less urban flooding, less forest fragmentation, soil conservation, more groundwater recharge, and more landscape to use for common goods. Total automation will radically change the daily needs of various population segments. I can imagine increased long-distance commuting and mobile office vehicles, drone delivery for many errands, on-demand care and newly mobile elderly segments, and the elimination of drunk driving to name a few.



The Future Of The Suburban City

If you are looking for an interesting, thought-provoking read, the The Future of the Suburban City by Grady Gammage Jr. might be of interest. Below, is a general description of the book as written by the publisher.

There exists a category of American cities in which the line between suburban and urban is almost impossible to locate. These suburban cities arose in the last half of twentieth-century America, based largely on the success of the single-family home, shopping centers, and the automobile. The low-density, auto-centric development of suburban cities, which are largely in the arid West, presents challenges for urban sustainability as it is traditionally measured. Yet, some of these cities—Los Angeles, Las Vegas, Phoenix, Salt Lake, Dallas, Tucson, San Bernardino, and San Diego—continue to be among the fastest growing places in the United States. 

In The Future of the Suburban City, Phoenix native Grady Gammage, Jr. looks at the promise of the suburban city as well as the challenges. He argues that places that grew up based on the automobile and the single-family home need to dramatically change and evolve. But suburban cities have some advantages in an era of climate change, and many suburban cities are already making strides in increasing their resilience. Gammage focuses on the story of Phoenix, which shows the power of collective action — government action — to confront the challenges of geography and respond through public policy. He takes a fresh look at what it means to be sustainable and examines issues facing most suburban cities around water supply, heat, transportation, housing, density, urban form, jobs, economics, and politics.

The Future of the Suburban City is a realistic yet hopeful story of what is possible for any suburban city.


As Self-Driving Cars Hit The Road, Real Estate Development May Take New Direction (

A recent policy brief by the Institute of Transportation Studies at University of California, Davis, was even more clear. The convergence of three new technologies—automation, electrification, and shared mobility—has the potential to create a whole new wave of automation-induced sprawl without proper planning and regulation.
This will completely change us as a society,” says Shannon McDonald, an architect, assistant professor at Southern Illinois University-Carbondale, and an expert in future mobility planning. “I think it’ll have the same transformational change as the introduction of the automobile.



New Suburbanism is not New Urbanism

In the essay “Conservatives and the New Urbanism”, the authors write:

At its simplest, New Urbanism
aims to build hamlets, neighborhoods, villages, towns, and
cities rather than subdivisions, shopping centers, and office
parks like those found in conventional suburban
developments … Maximizing walkability is essential.

What New Urbanism fails to esteem, we find present and future promise in. What New Urbanism frames as “in need of repair”, we frame as needing enhancement and evolution. The “middle metropolis” we call suburbia has been misunderstood for a long time. We are adopting a positive view of the suburbanized metropolis, the inner and outer belts of major cities, their special forms of landscape, architecture, commerce and amenity.

At its simplest, New Suburbanism

aims to plan intersections and avenues, neighborhoods, villages, towns centres, and communities of all sizes, including subdivisions, shopping centers, and office parks like those found in conventional suburban areas. Maximizing individual mobility is essential.

In areas that are substantially urban or dense, local improvement turns toward making landscapes walkable and pedestrianized. The inner and outer suburbs represent the newer, flatter, more distributed form of metropolis, and it’s often thought to be un-walkable or worse. Since this is the main charge against suburbia (from which many other critiques are made), and since many of today’s suburban areas fall short of our aspirations for accessible, equitable environments, we as New Suburbanists will focus on walkability within a newly-conceived regional framework that supports the renewal and re-imagining of all types of environments, a philosophy of metropolitan growth that we call “Integrated Mobility”.

Whereas New Urbanism focuses on the quality of new construction and the achievement of human-scaled neighbourhood design, New Suburbanism focuses on i) the spatial requirements of regional processes, ii) the forms of governance needed to undertake sustainable and integrative community planning, and iii) individual metropolitan movement.
Whereas New Urbanism has supported the re-emergence of traditional town planning practices, and whereas this school of New Urbanists has developed an “open orthodoxy” regarding the design of neighbourhoods and cities, and whereas despite best efforts the Congress for New Urbanism is unable to enact “Sprawl Repair” at the needed rate of renewal, New Suburbanism is an attempt to avoid design orthodoxy by focusing on the plurality of landscape design, and to support the mending of large and small environments across the “periferie” — through a new focus on integrated community planning and development.