I’ve written off and on here about some of the challenges created by sprawl and by the suburbanization of so much of America over the last 60 years or so.
One of the thorniest issues is transportation, and that issue is fundamentally related to an even more alarming issue: the rising number of suburbanites living in poverty.
The New York Times had a really interesting piece about various issues a few days ago: Hardship Makes a New Home in the Suburbs
The piece focuses on Moreno Valley, California, but the problems noted there are growing across the country.
And let me say right away that much of the concern is really about exurbs or about the farthest flung suburbs — those “neighborhoods” that sprung to life very quickly but without easy access to basic services and without clear funding streams to maintain basic city services. More sprawling areas simply require more tax money for road maintenance, trash collection, and similar tasks that can be accomplished much more efficiently in denser areas. (The problem is compounded by the number of suburbanites who have embraced “small government” rhetoric.)
From the NYT piece by Jennifer Medina:
Five decades after President Lyndon B. Johnson declared a war on poverty, the nation’s poor are more likely to be found in suburbs like this one than in cities or rural areas, and poverty in suburbs is rising faster than in any other setting in the country. By 2011, there were three million more people living in poverty in suburbs than in inner cities, according to a study released last year by the Brookings Institution. As a result, suburbs are grappling with problems that once seemed alien, issues compounded by a shortage of institutions helping the poor and distances that make it difficult for people to get to jobs and social services even if they can find them.
I’ve quoted the wonkiest paragraph in the piece. For the most part, Medina looks at real lives of residents who are struggling to stay afloat, to find work, to bring in extra cash, to minimize transportation costs.
Here’s the accompanying video: