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With the new urbanism movment, what do y'all think is the future of the suburbs?

I know this is a very comprehensive topic, but wanted to know what some of your ideas on this were. Hopefully we can all add on to each other's ideas to come closer, but not necessarily, to some sort of conclusion.

Some factors I've thought about:

- gentrification in the city and new urbanism (not sure if i'm being redundant)

- people leaving the 'burbs and moving closer to the city center

- mass public transit (LRT, BRT)

- population growth

- which will lead to congested freeways

- which might lead to even more people, including middle class, to move closer to the city center

Of course, if what I believe might happen, and more people want to live closer in and the population grows, those houses and apartments they left in the 'burbs will be filled by the new population. But what if developers keep on building unnecessary residential or the city center continues to become even more dense? What will become of those houses? My way of thinking may be off, because I believe most likely that the market will work itself out.

I think it'll be very interesting to see how this develops.

What do y'all see happening in the future?

Edited by lockmat
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I've been at work mulling over related questions all day and night...working on a big project with a long buildout period. Of new persons being born or moving into the Houston area, only 1 out of about 23 becomes an inner-loop resident. This is the case in part because for every new inner loop resident, some sizable fraction of another person is displaced, often as a matter of income.

I forsee a time when the inner-loop is so thoroughly income-segregated that it's appeal for relocations is largely limited to the upper-middle and upper classes, which comprise a relatively small portion of the population. HISD schools may turn around and become attractive again, but affordability and yards will still make the far-flung suburban fringe attractive for a very large number of people. So the distribution of households by income will be:

Urban Core = Highest

Aging Suburbs = Lowest

Suburban Fringe = Middle

Since small and medium-sized businesses don't need to draw from the entire region's labor force, employment growth will continue to be decentralized, probably even increasingly so. The urban core will still continue to grow, but the drivers will be corporate headquarters, law firms, and specialized medical services.

Urban land will tend to shift more from a highest and best commercial use to a highest and best residential use, especially considering that many households with two workers will find themselves working on opposite sides of town, possibly with a high rate of job 'leapfrogging' to various parts of town and find it more advantageous to be centrally-based. As I noted before, however, prices will rise, further displacing people to where there is still lots of inexpensive land.

So my conclusion: expect more of the same type and pattern of growth as we have seen in the past five to ten years.

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Urban Core = Highest

Aging Suburbs = Lowest

Suburban Fringe = Middle

So my conclusion: expect more of the same type and pattern of growth as we have seen in the past five to ten years.

What part of the city are aging suburbs? Is that the area in between the loops?

I ask this Niche, if the growth patterns we have seen in the past five to ten years continue, how will we deal with vehicular congestion? Even if most people don't work near the city center and work in satellite communites, they'll still need to travel on freeways and major streets. And even with Metro's current plan to extend light rail out to just past the 610 loop all around the city, it won't be enough. Suburbian people will kill themselves before they even get to their destinations out of frustration. Houston and surrounding counties will have to keep up with demands for public transoportation. Or maybe not. I guess LA deals with that problem.

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Or maybe not. I guess LA deals with that problem.

correct. and houston and the surrounding area has more land to build more roads for more cars.

i agree with Niche. Houston is going to continue to suburban - much like Dallas. The cheap land "out there" is going to lure people who want a bigger house and a bigger yard, but don't have a bigger income to buy ITL.

example: i want to move ITL, but I also want a yard for my son and two dogs. i work at home and my wife is starting a business of her own, so we need: Master BR, Bedroom for son, an office for me, and an office for her. We'd like to have a BR for guests and an exercise room. So that's a 4BR with a study, if not larger. ITL, that's gonna cost me $400k. I make good money (we're single income until my wife's biz makes $) but $400k isn't in my budget. According to one of those bogus "how much can you afford" calculators, I can afford $300k or so, but why would I do that, when I can get everything I want for under $200k, with the only sacrifice being moving to the suburbs. with no commute (except for a trip to the airport once a month) the only reason to be in the city is because i like living in the city.

so the next question is, where does affordability start? (map-wise) right now, there are plenty of places inside the beltway that are just cheap. i guess that will keep up to an extent (more to the east than the west, as the population shift in houston is west.)

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What part of the city are aging suburbs? Is that the area in between the loops?

I'd say that suburbs older than about 10 to 15 years would fall into that category...but there are always exceptions. Some neighborhoods have staying power, others do not. But I'd say that these are very generally around Beltway 8.

I ask this Niche, if the growth patterns we have seen in the past five to ten years continue, how will we deal with vehicular congestion? Even if most people don't work near the city center and work in satellite communites, they'll still need to travel on freeways and major streets. And even with Metro's current plan to extend light rail out to just past the 610 loop all around the city, it won't be enough. Suburbian people will kill themselves before they even get to their destinations out of frustration. Houston and surrounding counties will have to keep up with demands for public transoportation. Or maybe not. I guess LA deals with that problem.

We're still at a point that we can reasonably build our way out of most of our traffic jams with bigger and better highways, toll roads, HOV lanes, park-and-ride lots, and regional bus systems. Then comes commuter rail, monorail, maglev, or whatever other technology is most cost-effective at the moment. I suspect that congestion will slowly get worse, but places like LA prove that people are willing to put up with it.

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example: i want to move ITL, but I also want a yard for my son and two dogs. i work at home and my wife is starting a business of her own, so we need: Master BR, Bedroom for son, an office for me, and an office for her. We'd like to have a BR for guests and an exercise room. So that's a 4BR with a study, if not larger. ITL, that's gonna cost me $400k. I make good money (we're single income until my wife's biz makes $) but $400k isn't in my budget. According to one of those bogus "how much can you afford" calculators, I can afford $300k or so, but why would I do that, when I can get everything I want for under $200k, with the only sacrifice being moving to the suburbs. with no commute (except for a trip to the airport once a month) the only reason to be in the city is because i like living in the city.

so the next question is, where does affordability start? (map-wise) right now, there are plenty of places inside the beltway that are just cheap. i guess that will keep up to an extent (more to the east than the west, as the population shift in houston is west.)

People leading the new urbansim movment tend to think that there is a better quality of life in it. Most people probably have not experienced an urban environment considering most of the country is sprawled out. So I guess suburban quality of life isn't so bad that they'll stop buying houses on huge lots.

I'm sure ubanizing has many good qualities that are better than sprawled life, but I gues people just don't see it. Or like you, I guess there things that it just won't provide unless you have a lot of money. But like my parents who just built a big house on a two acre lot in the Woodlands area, they have everything they need within a 10-15 driving distance, and wouldn't know what Houston was like at all if my aunt didn't live in Bellaire and my dad didn't work downtown.

Despite the small gap in quality of life, I don't think people are thinking about environmental issues and will never know what could have been b/c they'll never see an adequetly healthy one with thy way things are going.

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People leading the new urbansim movment tend to think that there is a better quality of life in it. Most people probably have not experienced an urban environment considering most of the country is sprawled out. So I guess suburban quality of life isn't so bad that they'll stop buying houses on huge lots.

I'm sure ubanizing has many good qualities that are better than sprawled life, but I gues people just don't see it. Or like you, I guess there things that it just won't provide unless you have a lot of money. But like my parents who just built a big house on a two acre lot in the Woodlands area, they have everything they need within a 10-15 driving distance, and wouldn't know what Houston was like at all if my aunt didn't live in Bellaire and my dad didn't work downtown.

Despite the small gap in quality of life, I don't think people are thinking about environmental issues and will never know what could have been b/c they'll never see an adequetly healthy one with thy way things are going.

Although popular, even among suburbanites, New Urbanism is just one perspective. Some people get caught up with it and firmly believe that it is the end-all-be-all of development practices. But people have different preferences and budgets, and my signature very abstractly describes the process by which they implement them.

As for environmental issues, most people just aren't very socially-conscious. I know I'm not. If the sum of the social and private cost of engaging in an activity from which I benefit is higher than the private cost alone, it just doesn't factor into my decision. I'll externalize the impact of my activity onto everyone else. With that in mind, your parents have a two-acre lot, presumably with a fair number of trees, and they might see that as an environmental amenity...what is the environment for if you can't enjoy it, right? And the Spring Creek corridor is going to really be something when it's completely patched together. It'll without a doubt put Memorial Park to shame. So your dad may externalize the effect of his commutes, but then again, your parents may also benefit from the use of the park, which is an environmental amenity that wouldn't have been available to him inside the city. This environmental stuff can get convoluted pretty easily.

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I'd say that suburbs older than about 10 to 15 years would fall into that category...but there are always exceptions. Some neighborhoods have staying power, others do not. But I'd say that these are very generally around Beltway 8.

We're still at a point that we can reasonably build our way out of most of our traffic jams with bigger and better highways, toll roads, HOV lanes, park-and-ride lots, and regional bus systems. Then comes commuter rail, monorail, maglev, or whatever other technology is most cost-effective at the moment. I suspect that congestion will slowly get worse, but places like LA prove that people are willing to put up with it.

I forget what the numbers are as far as when they expect Houston to add 3 million more people, but if I remember right, it wasn't that far off.

I know that technology and mass transit is coming, but will it get here soon enough? Will we have to suffer greatly until it catches up? Congestion is quickly getting worse out in the suburbs and there is no help coming as far as public transportation. The longest I've lived in Houston since going off to college in 2001 is about four or five months. But I came back this Christmas and suburban traffic was not very nice; worse than before.

Plus, I'm just thinking about the weather. I know we have A/C, but LA has a much more mild climate. I know it can get warm there too, but not like here. I wonder if that'll have an affect.

-----------------------------------

And the Spring Creek corridor is going to really be something when it's completely patched together.

what is this you're talking of? Have a link or anything?

And niche, you sure have a way of killing a thread by answering everything in a few posts, hah. Thanks though, I appreciate the knowledge and perspecitve

Edited by lockmat
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I forget what the numbers are as far as when they expect Houston to add 3 million more people, but if I remember right, it wasn't that far off.

I know that technology and mass transit is coming, but will it get here soon enough? Will we have to suffer greatly until it catches up? Congestion is quickly getting worse out in the suburbs and there is no help coming as far as public transportation. The longest I've lived in Houston since going off to college in 2001 is about four or five months. But I came back this Christmas and suburban traffic was not very nice; worse than before.

Plus, I'm just thinking about the weather. I know we have A/C, but LA has a much more mild climate. I know it can get warm there too, but not like here. I wonder if that'll have an affect.

We've had a lot of road construction lately, and although TXDoT screwed up US 59, there's plenty more in the pipeline. If only you had the map that I do, which shows every new freeway and toll road on the books going out until 2015. It is amazing how many hundreds of miles are supposed to be built or expanded.

A/C costs aren't likely to have too much of an effect. The higher costs of cooling a larger home sure hasn't kept people from buying their palacial pads (despite having fewer people per household, on average).

what is this you're talking of? Have a link or anything?

http://www.hcp4.net/Parks/ParksConProjects.htm

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The suburb market will stay strong. New and bigger houses + reasonable prices + masterplanned comunities = strong reasons to consider moving to the suburbs. There's a lot of McMansion haters within Houston city limits out there, plus rebuilding a house that big could be pricier than just buying out in Sugarland for the same amount of home and lot space.

I think Houston's biggest weapons may lie with larger loft-living spaces, masterplanned-communities that compete with suburban prices (if that's possible), and desirable locations.

Edited by DJ V Lawrence
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The question was about the FUTURE of the suburbs. We seem to be describing a continuation of current trends.

Our "urban landscapes" are going to change radically in the next 50 years. The Internet revolution, which has only been happening since 1996 (less than a generation) is so profound that it will take generations to play out. And the nuclear proliferation that started in 1945 is still yet to play out.

In summary, cities are going to die like wounds lacerated with needles, draining their pus into the surrounding soil all across the country. Here's how...

Most people will be telecommuting, so we won't need rings of expressways, 2-car families, hour-long commutes every morning, or the sprawling cities that have arisen from these things. The world will revert to something that more resembles pre-Industrial societies, like Europe in the 1700's, when agriculture was king. The country will be divided into sprawling lots of lush green land with small towns every so many miles. When a young man decides to settle down and raise a family, he'll buy 5 acres in Montana, near an airport, and his boss in Georgia will watch over him on the computer video camera, and talk on the computer microphone. And if he wants to go from Montana to Georgia to see him in person, he buys a $30 ticket on a supersonic jet and gets there in an hour - just like you would in a taxi cab ride across a city in 2006. And if he wants a quart of milk for dinner - he hops in his electric golf cart and drives to his nearest town center. Or maybe he'll don a jet pack or hop in a mini helicopter and travel those 4 miles in the air.

There will always be large-scale wars as long as there are human beings. Hitler proved that WWI was NOT the "war to end all wars". In fact, the first cities to disappear will be New York and Washington, DC, because some jihadist nut is going to detonate a nuke out of a suitcase in those friendly places. When a million people die instantly from the blast, the rest will buy one-way tickets to Montana. And then some far east dictator crazed from a brain tumor will nuke San Francisco and Los Angeles with the touch of a button. Even if the U.S. retaliates and turns South Korea into a giant parking lot that glows at night, the survivors in places like Orange County are going to pack up and head for Utah.

Will there be any big cities left? Not quite as many. At least not until we come up with a Star Wars missile defense system to protect our cities. Or maybe cities will grow in places like deep in the Rocky Mountains where it's harder for a warhead to kill so many people.

So if you want to get a jump start on the future, go to Montana or Colorado and buy up all the rural land you can. You can even give yourself the title of "Baron". And buy stock in companies that make electric golf carts and snowmobiles.

Edited by SpringTX
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With the new urbanism movment, what do y'all think is the future of the suburbs?

I agree with Niche that here in Houston we will continue to see the following:

Inner-Loop: Re-growth catching up to (and then) matching national inflation rates (e.g. condos, townhomes & mcmansions priced competetively with urban markets in other regions)

Outer-Loop/Inner-Belt: A continued struggle between pre-1980's established neighborhoods, and the massive build-out of apartment complexes that started in the 1970's. You'll continue to see inflation in the last of Houston's "urban-compatible" residential neighborhoods even though they don't have the commercial retail or schools to match - all due to poorly managed mega-apartment complexes

Outer-Belt & Beyond: Suburbia.. McMansions with 8 bedrooms, marble/granite counter tops, 3 bay garages, and cul-de-sacs will still reign supreme among most bread-winners trying to elevate their "status" and provide for their family what they didn't have growing up.

Of course there are exceptions to every rule.

Inner-loop: You'll have your "traditional" low-income neighborhoods that will see little to no change, especially without allowing gentrification (e.g. upper 3rd ward, 5th ward, Independence Heights, South Union, etc).

Outer-Loop/Inner-Belt: You'll have neighborhoods on the west side that will continue to inflate at rate faster than the rest of the city (e.g. the "Villages, Tanglewood, Briargrove/Briarcroft, etc).

Outer-Belt & Beyond: Too many of these "cookie-cutter" neighborhoods will collaspe eventually. Homes built and sold for 200k will sell 10-15 years later for $150k, and all for one reason: It will literally be cheaper for a home-buyer to travel another ten minutes away from the city to find a "newer" home, in a "better", more safe suburb.

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Our "urban landscapes" are going to change radically in the next 50 years.

Who are your influences that have given you this sort of thinking? What books have you read? Or are these just your own conclusions? Just wondering since I haven't really heard this before

But at the same time, I'm not so sure the internet will change things as much as you think. Although technology continues to get better at a very high rate, we always fail to acknowledge the importance and irreplacable factor of face-to-face in person interaction. Maybe I'm not seeing beyond what's in front of me, but I'm not so sure about all that. It's possible that it'll happen like that, but you never know. This is all my opinion of course. I think it'll be interesting to see things play out

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Who are your influences that have given you this sort of thinking? What books have you read? Or are these just your own conclusions? Just wondering since I haven't really heard this before

But at the same time, I'm not so sure the internet will change things as much as you think. Although technology continues to get better at a very high rate, we always fail to acknowledge the importance and irreplacable factor of face-to-face in person interaction. Maybe I'm not seeing beyond what's in front of me, but I'm not so sure about all that. It's possible that it'll happen like that, but you never know. This is all my opinion of course. I think it'll be interesting to see things play out

I recall having heard on more than one occasion from academic sources that e-mail is often less a replacement for face-to-face conversation than it is a stimulator of it. But I think the jury was still out on the matter.

It is true, though that transportation costs have historically declined at a pretty rapid rate since the 1800's, and that if the pattern continues by way of technological advancement, it is conceivable (although far from guaranteed) that a lot of people would be able to do mega-commutes. Hell, if someone could find a way to engineer an extremely reliable ultralight aircraft with an advanced autopilot and automated air traffic control system, I think that you'd start seeing a proliferation of residential airparks with acreage lots in rural areas surrounding cities, with short landing strips in business districts.

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It is true, though that transportation costs have historically declined at a pretty rapid rate since the 1800's, and that if the pattern continues by way of technological advancement, it is conceivable (although far from guaranteed) that a lot of people would be able to do mega-commutes. Hell, if someone could find a way to engineer an extremely reliable ultralight aircraft with an advanced autopilot and automated air traffic control system, I think that you'd start seeing a proliferation of residential airparks with acreage lots in rural areas surrounding cities, with short landing strips in business districts.

I just don't get it why people would want to be so secluded. I guess there are always the exceptions, but for the most part, people seems to want and have a need to be around other people to some extent.

So transportation costs have been declining? Hah, then why is public transit like heavy rail and LRT the exceptions. :( Or are they not?

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I just don't get it why people would want to be so secluded. I guess there are always the exceptions, but for the most part, people seems to want and have a need to be around other people to some extent.

Well, you don't have to get it. I'm one of those folks, and frankly, five acres is a bit too confining for my taste. I'd need at least 150 acres and the company of a good woman to be as comfortable as I'd like. Beyond that, I wouldn't mind driving for several hours to get to a big city, so long as there's a grocery store within an hour of me.

I've actually wondered before what the big motivation is for people to be so close to one another. For me, at present, it primarily has to do with wealth accumulation. I can't afford what I want just yet. But a secondary factor is probably biological. Just a life stage thing, you know? The fact is that if I can ever get to my ideal point, it'll probably be upon retirement...and that's a LONG way off.

So transportation costs have been declining? Hah, then why is public transit like heavy rail and LRT the exceptions. :( Or are they not?

Cities, Regions, and the Decline of Transport Costs

I'm not sure why the long-term average cost of heavy or light rail would be increasing at a rate higher than inflation. Are you talking about capital costs or operating costs?

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Well, you don't have to get it. I'm one of those folks, and frankly, five acres is a bit too confining for my taste. I'd need at least 150 acres and the company of a good woman to be as comfortable as I'd like. Beyond that, I wouldn't mind driving for several hours to get to a big city, so long as there's a grocery store within an hour of me.

I've actually wondered before what the big motivation is for people to be so close to one another. For me, at present, it primarily has to do with wealth accumulation. I can't afford what I want just yet. But a secondary factor is probably biological. Just a life stage thing, you know? The fact is that if I can ever get to my ideal point, it'll probably be upon retirement...and that's a LONG way off.

Cities, Regions, and the Decline of Transport Costs

I'm not sure why the long-term average cost of heavy or light rail would be increasing at a rate higher than inflation. Are you talking about capital costs or operating costs?

Yeah, I know I don't have to get it. But are there that many of you out there? I understand that even the suburbs as they are now are an attempt to be more secluded, but that secluded? And do you actually think it'll be possible with farmers everywhere? The internet isn't going to spit food out of our monitors. We can't just throw them out.

And as for the cost of public transportation, I'm not sure what I mean. I guess I'm talking about what it takes to actually build it. Is that captial costs?

Thanks for the link, too.

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Who are your influences that have given you this sort of thinking? What books have you read? Or are these just your own conclusions? Just wondering since I haven't really heard this before

But at the same time, I'm not so sure the internet will change things as much as you think. Although technology continues to get better at a very high rate, we always fail to acknowledge the importance and irreplacable factor of face-to-face in person interaction. Maybe I'm not seeing beyond what's in front of me, but I'm not so sure about all that. It's possible that it'll happen like that, but you never know. This is all my opinion of course. I think it'll be interesting to see things play out

If it's a vision of the future involving NY, DC, LA, and SF all being blown up by nukes, and people working from home in remote areas and driving electric golf carts around, then you can bet it came from my own twisted head. :) Can you imagine reading anything that bizarre in a reputable publication?

Seriously, everyone was stunned when the horse was replaced by the steam locomotive. And when the steam locomotive was replaced by the electric streetcar. And when the electric streetcar was replaced by the gasoline automobile. Something will eventually come next that stun everyone. It may be 50 years or 100 years away. Or maybe just 10 years away. But it's coming. It may involve helicopters, space ships, jet packs, or teleporters. It's anyone's guess what is next. Folks have been predicting airborne cars for 75 years. And we all saw the Jetsons cartoons years ago. Who knows. I'm sure I'll be old crusty whenever the new technology comes out.

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Yeah, I know I don't have to get it. But are there that many of you out there? I understand that even the suburbs as they are now are an attempt to be more secluded, but that secluded? And do you actually think it'll be possible with farmers everywhere? The internet isn't going to spit food out of our monitors. We can't just throw them out.

And as for the cost of public transportation, I'm not sure what I mean. I guess I'm talking about what it takes to actually build it. Is that captial costs?

Thanks for the link, too.

There are a lot of us out there. In fact, there are a fair number of new urbanist proponents that I've met that seem to be of like mind. Ideally, they'd prefer rural living, but also like urban living, and just absolutely despise the idea of living in the suburbs.

I don't worry about farmers. As it is, our crop yields per acre have gotten high enough that market prices for produce are depressed and many farmers can't afford to plant crops. As a result, a lot of the land (in Texas, at least) already lies fallow and is reverting to the next highest use, which is often recreational or residential. That's probably not the case in Kansas, but who wants to live there anyway?

And as for the cost of public transportation, I'm not sure what I mean. I guess I'm talking about what it takes to actually build it. Is that captial costs?

Yes. Capital costs are probably higher right now because the price of materials and freight transportation is up. Steel and concrete are in very high demand right now, and a lot of it has to do with demand from Asia. I'm not sure why, but I've heard that aggregate from Scotland is now even being imported to the U.S. for concrete manufacturing!

But I'm not sure that this is a long-term trend. Concrete and steel production aren't very easy to ramp up when prices change, so it is supply inelastic. Kind of like oil and gas. Just because prices have gone up for a couple years doesn't mean that every construction firm out there is going to go and start opening up new quarries, building steel plants, etc. But if prices stay consistently high, new production capacity should come on line.

Edited by TheNiche
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If it's a vision of the future involving NY, DC, LA, and SF all being blown up by nukes, and people working from home in remote areas and driving electric golf carts around, then you can bet it came from my own twisted head. :) Can you imagine reading anything that bizarre in a reputable publication?

Seriously, everyone was stunned when the horse was replaced by the steam locomotive. And when the steam locomotive was replaced by the electric streetcar. And when the electric streetcar was replaced by the gasoline automobile. Something will eventually come next that stun everyone. It may be 50 years or 100 years away. Or maybe just 10 years away. But it's coming. It may involve helicopters, space ships, jet packs, or teleporters. It's anyone's guess what is next. Folks have been predicting airborne cars for 75 years. And we all saw the Jetsons cartoons years ago. Who knows. I'm sure I'll be old crusty whenever the new technology comes out.

You're probably right, something will come and stun us again. But regular air travel that's not mass transit-like, like commercial airplanes, seems unlikely to me. I just don't see how we figure out a way to regulate air space like we can with white dotted lanes on the streets. Just seems like it would be chaos. But then again, we may not have to rely on ourselves to navigate whatever system it is carrying us. Who knows.

As a result, a lot of the land (in Texas, at least) already lies fallow and is reverting to the next highest use, which is often recreational or residential. That's probably not the case in Kansas, but who wants to live there anyway?

Well, according to SpringTx, we'll all be living there, not by choice, but because all our cities will be abliterated.

Just messin' w/ ya STx ;)

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I just don't get it why people would want to be so secluded. I guess there are always the exceptions, but for the most part, people seems to want and have a need to be around other people to some extent.

So transportation costs have been declining? Hah, then why is public transit like heavy rail and LRT the exceptions. :( Or are they not?

There have always been and will always be two segments of the population at any given time: those trying to be near more people, and those trying to get away from people. And the same person could fall into both categories at different times in his life. To be near more people, there is everything that comes with people: opportunities to make money, party, learn, meet women, etc. But there is also everything bad about people when you find more of them: crime, disease, hate, congestion, poverty, oppression, etc.

My point was that technology will bring us closer. For example, Internet dating. No need to cruise the bars if you can go to meetme.com and find all the prospects you could ever want.

A perfect example is this HAIF board. If I really wanted to see people face-to-face, would I spend hours typing away to complete strangers who I will hopefully never see face-to-face?

100 acres for just me and my family? Hell yes, thank you. Y'all can come visit, but only for a couple hours before I escort you to the property line. :)

Human populations will always have urban centers and always have some sprawl. Some people want to get as far the heck away from others as they possibly can. Others want to be near as many others as possible. The loners lament the shrinking forest. The socialities lament the death of great, vibrant (mythical) cities like Paris and Rome.

The human race can't exist without both elements. This duality is inherently necessary in a checks-and-balances kind of way. If we get out of whack too far in one direction, that's when the other side pulls hard in the other direction. It's like liberals and conservatives. We need both of those lunatics.

Edited by SpringTX
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There have always been and will always be two segments of the population at any given time: those trying to be near more people, and those trying to get away from people.

I can see where you're comin from. I think we can see that in history.

My point was that technology will bring us closer. For example, Internet dating. No need to cruise the bars if you can go to meetme.com and find all the prospects you could ever want.

A perfect example is this HAIF board. If I really wanted to see people face-to-face, would I spend hours typing away to complete strangers who I will hopefully never see face-to-face?

Hopefully? hah. I'm with ya there.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Autogyro

Old technology, but outfit it with a triple-redundant onboard computer and imagine the possibilities.

Like I said, my main concern is regulating the air traffic. If "triple-redundant onboard computer" fixes that, ok, I can imagine.

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Well, according to SpringTx, we'll all be living there, not by choice, but because all our cities will be abliterated.

Just messin' w/ ya STx ;)

I moved out of DC right after 9/11. I saw it take place out the window of my office high-rise. I can still see the smoke rising up in the distance less than 2 miles away. All the women in the office were crying. We were all trapped in the building because the roads were all jammed and the subways were all closed down. We were told not leave the building. So we sat in silence and watched the smoke rise up and listened to the women cry. If the attack had been a small nuclear bomb instead of just a suicidal jumbo jet, I wouldn't be here today.

With each year, another country gets closer to having nuclear weaponry. It's just a matter of time. Eventually most every country will have nukes. And then it's just a matter until someone uses even just one of them. Just one nuke detonated in the right place can kill millions of people. It all seemed less real before 9/11. But I'll bet anyone good money that, sooner or later, there will be a nuke detonated on American soil. It may be 10 years or 20 years. But there are just too many people who hate us all around the world. And I sure as heck don't want to be in NY or DC when that nuke is detonated. If those cities empty out, it just makes Chicago and LA the next targets in line. Wherever the people are clustered is where the next nuke is going to be aimed. So I predict people are going to scatter like coachroaches when the light switch is turned on.

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I moved out of DC right after 9/11. I saw it take place out the window of my office high-rise. I can still see the smoke rising up in the distance less than 2 miles away. All the women in the office were crying. We were all trapped in the building because the roads were all jammed and the subways were all closed down. We were told not leave the building. So we sat in silence and watched the smoke rise up and listened to the women cry. If the attack had been a small nuclear bomb instead of just a suicidal jumbo jet, I wouldn't be here today.

With each year, another country gets closer to having nuclear weaponry. It's just a matter of time. Eventually most every country will have nukes. And then it's just a matter until someone uses even just one of them. Just one nuke detonated in the right place can kill millions of people. It all seemed less real before 9/11. But I'll bet anyone good money that, sooner or later, there will be a nuke detonated on American soil. It may be 10 years or 20 years. But there are just too many people who hate us all around the world. And I sure as heck don't want to be in NY or DC when that nuke is detonated. If those cities empty out, it just makes Chicago and LA the next targets in line. Wherever the people are clustered is where the next nuke is going to be aimed. So I predict people are going to scatter like coachroaches when the light switch is turned on.

No doubt if that plays out, you're right and people do scatter.

But what's the theory that if many countries acquire nukes and someone uses one, especially on us, that there won't be a world war again and the entire planet is gone?

With my religious beliefs though, I don't think that'll ever happen, so I'm not really too worried that the planet will be destroyed that way, which I think would happen if so many important countries had them and someone used one.

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http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Autogyro

Old technology, but outfit it with a triple-redundant onboard computer and imagine the possibilities.

Holy cow. $20,000?? Designed basically so it won't crash (or won't easily crash, and getting better in that category all the time)?? Speeds of up to 100 mph or even 200 mph? 12 hours of training to learn how to fly one? The future is almost already here. I didn't realize we were that close. If these were mass-produced, they'd cost less than automobiles. It's just a matter of changing the public mindset. I didn't even know these things existed before today, for example. If I could park one in my garage and launch it from the roof of my house in The Woodlands, it could be a 20-minute commute for me to downtown instead of a 60-minute commute. And no traffic jams. Ever. This kind of technological breakthrough can't be kept a secret forever. It may be 20 or 30 years, but once it breaks loose, it'll be like the personal computer where we went from 2 computers to 2,000,000 within just a few years.

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But what's the theory that if many countries acquire nukes and someone uses one, especially on us, that there won't be a world war again and the entire planet is gone?

If the superpowers (US, Russia, China) unloaded every nuke they had on one another, that could pretty much clean out the planet once the radiation and the dust went up. And that could happen someday, unfortunately. But I'm visualizing more limited engagements - like Pakistan or South Korea throwing 1 or 2 nukes at some other country. Or even 10 or 12 nukes. But not thousands. If a few nukes hit us, would America retaliate and send dozens of nukes back at a small country? I have no clue. The whole calculus of this kind of war is completely disgusting and depressing. It's like the difference between fighting with fists and fighting with pistols. If there are pistols, someone's going to wind up in a body bag. And no one's going to fight with fists forever if pistols are available. That's why I think the Star Wars type of defense system, even if it's 200 years away technologically, must happen.

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Holy cow. $20,000?? Designed basically so it won't crash (or won't easily crash, and getting better in that category all the time)?? Speeds of up to 100 mph or even 200 mph? 12 hours of training to learn how to fly one? The future is almost already here. I didn't realize we were that close. If these were mass-produced, they'd cost less than automobiles. It's just a matter of changing the public mindset. I didn't even know these things existed before today, for example. If I could park one in my garage and launch it from the roof of my house in The Woodlands, it could be a 20-minute commute for me to downtown instead of a 60-minute commute. And no traffic jams. Ever. This kind of technological breakthrough can't be kept a secret forever. It may be 20 or 30 years, but once it breaks loose, it'll be like the personal computer where we went from 2 computers to 2,000,000 within just a few years.

Where would you park the dang thing? Looks like it would take up more space than a car, and I read that it takes less space to land than a normal helicopter, but how much is less space anyway? And would we be able to put them into 'parking garages, or would we just have acres of parking lots, even more than we do now?

If the superpowers (US, Russia, China) unloaded every nuke they had on one another, that could pretty much clean out the planet once the radiation and the dust went up. And that could happen someday, unfortunately. But I'm visualizing more limited engagements - like Pakistan or South Korea throwing 1 or 2 nukes at some other country. Or even 10 or 12 nukes. But not thousands. If a few nukes hit us, would America retaliate and send dozens of nukes back at a small country? I have no clue. The whole calculus of this kind of war is completely disgusting and depressing. It's like the difference between fighting with fists and fighting with pistols. If there are pistols, someone's going to wind up in a body bag. And no one's going to fight with fists forever if pistols are available. That's why I think the Star Wars type of defense system, even if it's 200 years away technologically, must happen.

I agree

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Where would you park the dang thing? Looks like it would take up more space than a car, and I read that it takes less space to land than a normal helicopter, but how much is less space anyway? And would we be able to put them into 'parking garages, or would we just have acres of parking lots, even more than we do now?

In theory, a helicopter can launch straight up into the air. And this autogyro doesn't appear to be a whole lot bigger than an average SUV. I guess we'd have to convert driveways into helipads, whatever that would mean. Or maybe rooftops could be made into helipads. If you're building a new house, you can design whatever you need. There are some helipads downtown now - they're basically parking lots, I guess. And I'm imagining office buildings could convert their rooftops into helipads. This is not my area of expertise at all. But in theory, it can't be that hard. It's not like we're talking about airplanes that need long runways or anything.

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Where would you park the dang thing? Looks like it would take up more space than a car, and I read that it takes less space to land than a normal helicopter, but how much is less space anyway? And would we be able to put them into 'parking garages, or would we just have acres of parking lots, even more than we do now?

The reason I suggested an autogyro and not other forms of ultralight aircraft is that they can operate with very short landing strips. They could be parked in a long multilevel parking garage with a landing strip on top. They aren't very bulky or wide, either, so not many special design requirements, and they could really be packed in tight.

I'm thinking that the METRO bus barn site between San Jacinto and McKee would be a good place for it.

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The reason I suggested an autogyro and not other forms of ultralight aircraft is that they can operate with very short landing strips. They could be parked in a long multilevel parking garage with a landing strip on top. They aren't very bulky or wide, either, so not many special design requirements, and they could really be packed in tight.

I'm thinking that the METRO bus barn site between San Jacinto and McKee would be a good place for it.

I see a lot of advantages. And with the kind of technological refinement that happens when millions of any given thing is made, it can become twice as small, twice as sturdy, twice as easy to use, twice as safe, twice as cheap, etc. I just did a Google Video search on "autogyro".

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With the new urbanism movment, what do y'all think is the future of the suburbs?

I know this is a very comprehensive topic, but wanted to know what some of your ideas on this were. Hopefully we can all add on to each other's ideas to come closer, but not necessarily, to some sort of conclusion.

Some factors I've thought about:

- gentrification in the city and new urbanism (not sure if i'm being redundant)

- people leaving the 'burbs and moving closer to the city center

- mass public transit (LRT, BRT)

- population growth

- which will lead to congested freeways

- which might lead to even more people, including middle class, to move closer to the city center

Of course, if what I believe might happen, and more people want to live closer in and the population grows, those houses and apartments they left in the 'burbs will be filled by the new population. But what if developers keep on building unnecessary residential or the city center continues to become even denser? What will become of those houses? My way of thinking may be off, because I believe most likely that the market will work itself out.

I think it'll be very interesting to see how this develops.

What do y'all see happening in the future?

I think the topic has gone of kilter a bit, but to reply to the original post:

I have been heavily studding so-called

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In theory, a helicopter can launch straight up into the air. And this autogyro doesn't appear to be a whole lot bigger than an average SUV. I guess we'd have to convert driveways into helipads, whatever that would mean. Or maybe rooftops could be made into helipads. If you're building a new house, you can design whatever you need. There are some helipads downtown now - they're basically parking lots, I guess. And I'm imagining office buildings could convert their rooftops into helipads. This is not my area of expertise at all. But in theory, it can't be that hard. It's not like we're talking about airplanes that need long runways or anything.

This might work for a few dozen of these, but not for all commuters. You would have to rebuild all the parking garages to accept this new vehicle with its huge blade span. Also, since it would require a garage, you would have to have a system of landing at some point, and then transporting it to a

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This might work for a few dozen of these, but not for all commuters. You would have to rebuild all the parking garages to accept this new vehicle with its huge blade span. Also, since it would require a garage, you would have to have a system of landing at some point, and then transporting it to a
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I think its worth asking the question as to whether back yards are truely confining. If people only use back yards when they have a choice between back yards and pocket parks in traditional suburban developments, might that be a matter of revealed preference? Might it also be that the developer only puts in a crummy swing set because they know that the pocket park isn't going to be extensively used or appreciated, regardless of how much money they dump into it? I've certainly driven through plenty of subdivisions with nice well-kept parks and recreation centers that are grossly underutilized.

So the question is: if you take back yards away, children could be viewed as merely being confined to public spaces for lack of better alternatives, right?

That is a simplistic answer to a very complex question, and unfortunately I do not think it can be summed up all that easily. Not that I know the correct way to summarize it, but there are way to many variables to sum it that neatly.

Agreed. See comment below.

I think you hit this nail right on the head. The tricky thing, though, is that integrating a commercial office component in any meaningful way into a new urban development in a suburban setting requires that the site be very well located (i.e. next to a freeway, ideally at a junction of two). Retail is less difficult to integrate into such a development, but even then, if the developer realizes that they can get premium rents for putting the retail along the feeder road with signage opportunities that are visible from the freeway, that's what they'll do. It's a simple matter of highest and best use. The result is that commercial uses end up being clustered in the most visible/accessible spots, and if there's any room left for residential, it has to be worked around the high-value commercial uses as opposed to being integrated with them. There are exceptions, of course, but they're relatively rare...and the scale of them is typically pretty small.

This is the old way of thinking. Yes, it does require the developer to control all the corners or frontage of an area. But with this control, a developer can force the commercial and office to its desired location, not to just where it "typically goes". When the developer control the land, he will get the same amount of money per foot per market capacity regardless of where he puts it as long as access and some visibility are not removed and/or hindered. It is all a matter of proper planning and forethought.

Sugar Land Town Square, for example, disappoints me because it is an island unto itself. It is a very overt simulation and will only ever appeal to a niche market as a residential option. The Woodlands Town Center is much better about larger-scale integration, but then they're a dictatorship of sorts, so there's not much that can be learned from it.

What do you mean by disctatorship and nothign can be learned from it? I would like to know before I respond to this.

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What do you mean by disctatorship and nothign can be learned from it? I would like to know before I respond to this.

The Woodlands Operating Co., by virtue of The Woodlands' size, consolidated monopolistic ownership, and the fact that they are unincorporated, has been able to successfully enforce land use controls in much a similar way as a municipality could, except that they can do so unilaterally by way of deed restrictions and not have to put up with any sort of political backlash. Moreover, their intention is not only to develop a stand-alone site one time, but also to increase the overall value of their entire portfolio of real estate holdings.

It is essentially an experiment in the complete privatization of a municipal government, from inception to present.

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That is a simplistic answer to a very complex question, and unfortunately I do not think it can be summed up all that easily. Not that I know the correct way to summarize it, but there are way to many variables to sum it that neatly.
What's complicated? Given options, people use their yards, thus revealing their preference. So why give them options that they aren't going to use if you can eliminate the options, cut costs, and undercut the competition by not selling people things that they don't need?
This is the old way of thinking. Yes, it does require the developer to control all the corners or frontage of an area. But with this control, a developer can force the commercial and office to its desired location, not to just where it "typically goes".

Even if a developer controls all of the corners or frontage of an area (which is hard enough to achieve), he still must compete with every other developer in his market area that controls every other corner and every bit of frontage. He cannot force office tenants to move into his building that has less accessibility and visibility than the one across the highway that does. He still faces a highly competitive market, and for his new urban scheme to work, he'll need land use controls or a big BIG chunk of land supported by a growing metro area as well as pockets that are deep enough to be able to wait out the long drawn-out buildout process.

When the developer control the land, he will get the same amount of money per foot per market capacity regardless of where he puts it as long as access and some visibility are not removed and/or hindered. It is all a matter of proper planning and forethought

Yes, this goes without saying. But the most visible and accessible places are the places where it "typically goes" (i.e. it can't be moved anywhere else without adversely affecting those characteristics). That's why it "typically goes" there.

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What's complicated? Given options, people use their yards, thus revealing their preference. So why give them options that they aren't going to use if you can eliminate the options, cut costs, and undercut the competition by not selling people things that they don't need?

I'm hoping I interpret this correctly and you mean what you say. But I don't think people really use their yards. Most kids don't even use their yards anymore. I mean how often do we see people in them unless their swimming or have a fourth of July bbq once a year? On the other hand, plenty of people go to parks for picnics and various activities all the time. The main reason I believe why is because there's actually a significant amount of open space, unlike most yards. I used to be outside all the time as a kid. We had to play tackle in the grass and touch in the street. On occaasion we would try and find a park with open space to play.

Plus, we have scattered big parks around Houston, but here in Albuquerque there are many small parks in the neighborhoods. People aren't gonna go to the big parks miles away as often. Given the opportunity to have one a quarter mile away, I bet they'd choose the park more often than they do now.

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I don't think people really use their yards. Most kids don't even use their yards anymore. I mean how often do we see people in them unless their swimming or have a fourth of July bbq once a year? On the other hand, plenty of people go to parks for picnics and various activities all the time. The main reason I believe why is because there's actually a significant amount of open space, unlike most yards. I used to be outside all the time as a kid. We had to play tackle in the grass and touch in the street. On occaasion we would try and find a park with open space to play.

Plus, we have scattered big parks around Houston, but here in Albuquerque there are many small parks in the neighborhoods. People aren't gonna go to the big parks miles away as often. Given the opportunity to have one a quarter mile away, I bet they'd choose the park more often than they do now.

We don't see a lot of front yard usage, but that might have more to do with the use of back yards than with lack of activity. Parents tend to prefer that kids play in back yards because it is 1) safer, 2) more private, and 3) the mess that kids leave behind doesn't need to be so quickly tended to. Back yards are a more laid back space. Front yards can often be tagged by the HOA for violations. So it becomes pretty clear which side is going to get more use, and why you don't see much activity.

Having said that, try driving through a typical single-family subdivision, even a gated community, one summer afternoon. Then drive through Montrose. You'll see a difference in the number (and type) of people that are out and about. In Montrose, the fact that there are so many different kinds of people creates a sense of mysteriousness, but also an element of fear from the unknown. In the gated community, there is less reason for paranoia because everybody who lives there is of the same socioeconomic class...but there's less excitement too.

Parks are also kind of a funny issue because they come in two forms: public and private. Private parks, usually gated and sometimes patrolled by private security guards, are exclusive to the residents of that community...but those residents also can usually afford yards, so they don't add a whole lot of value. Public parks, if placed in proximity to neighborhoods with yards, often actually bring the value of the subdivision DOWN because they disproportionately attract people without yards, who are of a different socioeconomic class, are strangers to the neighborhood, and who have no incentive to clean up after themselves because they don't live around there.

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I will throw my hat (opinions) into the ring here:

Like Niche I too would love to have a few acres and a good fence between me and my neighbor. Am I anti-social no not at all but I also wish to retain my privacy not just visually but also via sound. In town living is great however when the city does not enforce laws governing noise then it can also be a pain. My neighborhood is pretty good however every now and then a young punk in a lowered Buick or Cadillac with windows down and base pumping slowly cruises down the road so that everyone knows that he and his crew exist. Each time I hear it in any neighborhood I think that they are darn lucky they live in the USA because in other countries giving them a good spanking, whipping, jail time, or ... would be allowed. Of course the Police can't do anything as they are mostly reactionary and fill out the reports after the crime has been committed not before or during.

I believe that with the Baby Boomers retiring the innerloop of Houston is going to flourish greatly with the desire for a short commute, easy access to airports/transportation alternatives, the Arts, Sports, Museums, etc.... Not to mention if you live inside the loop anywhere you go during the morning and evening is reverse traffic pretty much.

Suburbs outside of the beltway are iffy to me as they are cookie cutter homes being stamped into the dirt with limited elevations and/or styles. I believe these areas will become the new high crime ghetto areas due to the cheap construction and closeness of the homes to each other.

My .02c,

Scharpe St Guy

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We don't see a lot of front yard usage, but that might have more to do with the use of back yards than with lack of activity. Parents tend to prefer that kids play in back yards because it is 1) safer, 2) more private, and 3) the mess that kids leave behind doesn't need to be so quickly tended to. Back yards are a more laid back space. Front yards can often be tagged by the HOA for violations. So it becomes pretty clear which side is going to get more use, and why you don't see much activity.

Parks are also kind of a funny issue because they come in two forms: public and private. Private parks, usually gated and sometimes patrolled by private security guards, are exclusive to the residents of that community...but those residents also can usually afford yards, so they don't add a whole lot of value. Public parks, if placed in proximity to neighborhoods with yards, often actually bring the value of the subdivision DOWN because they disproportionately attract people without yards, who are of a different socioeconomic class, are strangers to the neighborhood, and who have no incentive to clean up after themselves because they don't live around there.

I know we can't keep every front and back yard on watch to see what the actual activity is, but in my opinion, I would be surprised if the back yard had much more activity than the front. You're right about the safety concerns of course and the other two points are legitimate.

Something I noticed when in Paris was that people were just relaxing in the parks too. Probably b/c they were very accessible. I know it'd be hard to do that in Houston w/ the heat and mosquitoes, but I think more well placed public parks would bring more of that, including a better feel of community. Eh, just what I'm thinkin.

And I didn't even really know there were private parks. Maybe I just didn't think of parks in gated communities as private, which of course they are.

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I'm hoping I interpret this correctly and you mean what you say. But I don't think people really use their yards. Most kids don't even use their yards anymore. I mean how often do we see people in them unless their swimming or have a fourth of July bbq once a year?

People in Albuquerque don't use them because many just have cacti surrounding their homes which would be a hazard to children. We don't have that problem here. I use my yard regularly as do my neighbors.

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I know we can't keep every front and back yard on watch to see what the actual activity is, but in my opinion, I would be surprised if the back yard had much more activity than the front.

Something I noticed when in Paris was that people were just relaxing in the parks too. Probably b/c they were very accessible. I know it'd be hard to do that in Houston w/ the heat and mosquitoes, but I think more well placed public parks would bring more of that, including a better feel of community. Eh, just what I'm thinkin.

And I didn't even really know there were private parks. Maybe I just didn't think of parks in gated communities as private, which of course they are.

Whether the front or back yard has more activity can be dependant on size. I know i've seen front yards so small that you can barely cut it with a lawn mower much less do anything on it.. But the homeowner may NOT want a yard to maintain. My parents have an acre. We used to ride motorcycles, play baseball, etc frequently. Now most parents would probably prefer that the kids stay around the house just for safety's sake.

Paris is a different situation because cities are more dense in Europe therefore land is more of a commodity. For many public parks are the only place residents can experience nature because land ownership is expensive.

Yes there are private parks even in Houston. I can think of one near the museum.

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People in Albuquerque don't use them because many just have cacti surrounding their homes which would be a hazard to children. We don't have that problem here. I use my yard regularly as do my neighbors.

You're kidding, right? Some people do have rocks as their yard but most people have grass.

You may be the exception to using your yard. I never see people in their front yards, not anywhere. And if people use their backyards, they probably don't even leave the porch most of the time.

I really hope the cactis remark was a joke.

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Nope, it's a fact. I've been to that region.

watering your lawn there is quite expensive an what lilttle lawn you have you have stickers to watch out for as well as Scorpions and snakes.

I'm living here. I simply don't believe that's the case.

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You're kidding, right? Some people do have rocks as their yard but most people have grass.

You may be the exception to using your yard. I never see people in their front yards, not anywhere. And if people use their backyards, they probably don't even leave the porch most of the time.

I really hope the cactis remark was a joke.

My relatives and friends who live there have cacti and rocks. you can walk around but basically no playing would be possible. Most are in the vicinity of Sandia Peak. Now that i think about it...one doesn't have cacti however there are quite a few natural obstacles in their yard as well. The ones I know there have properties that are more arrid. There may be some yards with grass but there is also frequent water rationing. NM has had water supply problems for years and the govt is spending millions to help conservation efforts. Watering lawns would seen foolish.

Lockmat saying "I never see people in their front yards, not anywhere" is not a reasonable statement. That would imply you've NEVER seen anyone cut their yard, do landscaping work in their yards, see children play in their yards? It is just not believable.

I'm living here. I simply don't believe that's the case.

Sounds like what you believe and the truth are two different things.

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