Urbanism thread (cities, housing, transit)

Thread for talking about the built environment and transit of your cities and urban/suburban areas (How to Train your Train is related but not the same)

I have something to start off the thread

1. DC vs the MD suburbs

ever since moving out to the MD suburbs for my gf’s work i’ve been bemoaning the lack of walkability. It’s more dense than suburbs in most parts of the country, but I still miss living in south Petworth - a DC neighborhood where i could walk to multiple corner stores, a big grocery stores, 2+ bars, 4+ restaurants, all within 5-15 minutes.

Legendarily, DC adheres to its original city plan and has no major crosscutting highways - here’s a fantastic historical article on the 1960s/70s fight to keep highways from bulldozing much of DC, including this neighborhood. Many cities across the country lost similar fights :frowning:

by contrast, a main feature of the northwest DC suburbs in Montgomery County MD is MD-355, which really hamstrings the ability to create transit oriented development along the route. If you think about it, subway stations aligned directly along a highway means any development along that corridor will be automatically bifurcated by a massive pedestrian unfriendly road.

In DC, MD-355 is the recognizably urban Wisconsin Ave, a walkable street which runs through the heart of Georgetown’s high-end retail district

In the close MD suburbs, it’s better when the Metro is still underground, albeit a little plastic and artificial. Friendship Heights Village (just northwest of the Red Line metro stop) has the highest population density of any incorporated or census-designated place in the USA.

Downtown Bethesda is probably the most urban example, where there seems to be an actual city-like fabric, tall buildings, restaurants, bougie coffee shops, etc

but out beyond that, we are well and truly in Stroad Hell. Massive parking craters, massive highway, single family zoning right next to the Metro station, all kinds of nonsense

special missed opportunities at Twinbrook, which drowns some extremely high quality Chinese and other Asian restaurants in an absolute sea of surface parking

and Rockville has a very cute downtown, but to get there from east of the tracks, you have to cross an eight lane highway (or a Ped bridge over said highway which is not enjoyable). the downtown is walled on all sides by major roads and everyone ends up driving there to experience the pedestrianized streets which seems… stupid.

:point_down:t5: the intersection of 355 and Park Rd at the corner of downtown, which has 25 (!!) approach lanes and is deadly to cross on foot

Finally, Shady Grove is just a massive park and ride, but it’s the end of the line so what do you expect.

so what?

Contrast all this with Arlington County, VA. Just on the opposite side of the Potomac from DC, when Metro was first extended to this area, my understanding is that local officials fought to have the alignment not along the massive highway I-66, as was originally planned, but instead along Wilson Boulevard, a relatively narrow arterial with two lanes per direction. The result is that you can see the urbanization of the Orange/Silver line between Rosslyn and Ballston metro stations from space.

Anyways, this is a lot of words about how I’m mad I can’t walk five minutes to a corner store. Been binge watching a lot of CityNerd videos.


I grew up in an exurb of DC, spent some time in a rural college, then a southern “historic downtown” college, and finally got hit by a 10 ton anvil of urbanism known as Chongqing, China. I grew up hearing people say they like the quiet country, are afraid of cities, and don’t like being around people they don’t know. I can firmly say I am not the same as those people I grew up with.


having a laugh staring at this photo and being able to pinpoint exactly where I live

hell, I can see the school’s football field out of my bedroom window


catching a plane to the football field to set up enormous pictures of horse girls and listening for a strangled yell, thus doxxing you


lmao sob



do any proper car enthusiasts even enjoy driving in urban traffic? seems like no-one is currently winning


I grew up in the suburbs and hated it. I’m now lucky to live at the center of a semi large French city (300k people) and the dream’s real. It takes less than 10 minutes to get to restaurants/bars/ the cinema/shops/parks on foot and it’s all pleasantly walkable. Mayors in any large city outside of the french riviera, including mine, are either left or green and they just love destroying parking space and adding bike lanes and pedestrian zones and I love it

Car culture is still extremely strong which is something you never really get from watching the american urbanism youtubers.
Nearly any working adult outside of very large cities with subway systems drives a car, including here. I’m in the minority for wanting to live in an apartment in the center + in the extreme minority for getting rid of my car.
I work in a public transit company and even there, there was a lot of outcry from coworkers when they were shown the city’s next plan to destroy parking space in the urban center.
Cars are too powerful and the suburban dream is well alive…


Suburbanites don’t enjoy driving, they enjoy “freedom”, i.e. the ability to instantaneously decide to travel from home to any given point B without needing to accomodate any other people.


it’s funny cuz walking is that but also you don’t have to drive. but of course we built everything far apart

I wish I could figure out why people hate the bus so much, by all rights we should have minimum 10 minute headways but it’s more like 30

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Hello, it is Mikey, Select Button’s Most Suburban Poster. I enjoy driving, though I am blessed to have a schedule which allows me to dodge a lot of the worst Long Island traffic.

I also enjoy the freedom Cuba described because I hate having to plan around train times. That said, the train is absolutely the best way to get to NYC from the burbs and I am fortunate enough to have a station in short walking distance. My brief taste of city living during college in Brooklyn was enjoyable but never enough to make me want to do it permanently. (And I was only in a dorm so my experience was watered down considerably).

There’s tons of noise about trying to keep millennials from abandoning Long Island with Walkable Downtowns centered around transit hubs then all the housing that gets built is only affordable for boomers that sell their single family homes and never go into the city anyway.

They should absolutely let more multifamily homes be built out here but there’s a lot of pushback against it for the usual racist and classist reasons. There was supposed to be some edict from the state rezoning a bunch of stuff and there was a huge outcry about it, people were acting like they were going to be forced from their homes.

Neighborhood corner stores are pretty rare, most shops etc are on the giant Stroads or the occasional little downtown main street kind of areas. That’s a shame. I have a smattering of stores in a little strip a few blocks from me on a smaller “main road” and it’d be nice if the zoning was a little more mixed


Daydreaming about moving to NYC again… Oh to have a two bedroom in Brooklyn…