The Way I Feel About You: “In praise of streetcar suburbs.”


Two photos from 13th Street in New Albany, just around the corner from our house.

Those parallel lines follow 13th Street north to Spring, then take a long westward curve. As a side note, with each passing day, I detest automobile supremacy more and more.

In Praise of Streetcar Suburbs, Defined and Illustrated, by Pete Saunders (The Corner Side Yard)

… Personally I love streetcar suburbs because they often have a mixed use character that places built after them lack. There’s also often a community or neighborhood connectivity within them that I find appealing; many streetcar suburb communities are full of proud, organized and vocal residents who advocate strongly on behalf of their community’s values. But I find three reasons that highlight why the streetcar suburb was — and is — a superior development type, and why it will make a comeback as American suburbs mature.

They are adaptable.
Streetcar suburbs were often built along grid networks, but not exclusively so; variations in block sizes and topographical adjustments can create differences in them. Streetcar suburbs were built and designed with streetcar systems in mind, but they generally have been able to succeed far longer than the streetcars themselves.

They are efficient.
Streetcar suburbs can accommodate a broad range of residential types and sizes, from large-lot single-family homes to midrise and high-rise multifamily developments. This is largely due to the kind of street networks given to them by the initial streetcars that created them. Another key efficiency: streetcar suburbs are well-suited to the “missing middle” of multifamily residential development, the townhouses, duplexes and small (2-12 units) multifamily buildings that create housing diversity and improve housing affordability.

They are inherently multi-modal.
As perhaps the original transit oriented development type, they are quite able to accommodate public transit; it’s in their DNA. However, even if streetcar networks never come back, they usually have transit supportive densities that make other modes, like buses or bikes, quite useful.