Tuesday, August 24, 2010

post katrina new orleans - focusing on what could be?

Video - The Sunken City: Rebuilding Post-Katrina New Orleans

UrbanLandInstitute | The city can keep its momentum going through careful consideration of how and where it grows, so that it continues to 1) become more accessible to residents and workers of a variety of incomes, age groups and household composition; and 2) more responsive to growing consumer demand for more energy-efficient and environmentally conscious places to live and work. This means sticking with a comprehensive strategy for development (and redevelopment) that conserves land and reduces the need to drive -- emphasizing development that integrates housing in a variety of price ranges, is close to employment and shopping, and is connected by transit.

Data from the Center for Neighborhood Technology (CNT) offers a glimpse at where New Orleans stands in this regard. Earlier this year, the center released new data measuring location costs for more than 330 metro areas across the U.S., including combined housing and transportation expenses, miles traveled for local trips, and vehicle carbon emissions. Although New Orleans is not among the nation’s priciest markets, CNT found that the housing-transportation burden for the metro area remains high, totaling at least 45 percent of the income for the vast majority of residents.

The data also show the extent of car dependency in New Orleans: while those in the inner core drive less than 12,000 miles per year, those in the neighborhoods from just outside the core to the outlying edges drive 16,000 miles, even 18,000-plus miles per year for work and errands (nearly twice the national average). While 14 percent of downtown residents use public transit, the percentage drops to one percent or less for the suburbs. And, not surprisingly, the households farthest from major employment nodes have the highest carbon emissions. What this shows is the impact of sprawl in the suburbs, even in close-in suburbs, and even in a city with distinct land constraints.

As New Orleans continues the rebuilding process, how its suburbs grow is pivotal. Suburban growth in the 21st century does not have to be sprawl, not in New Orleans or other urban areas. In metro areas across the United States, the suburbs are where the growth will be, and in the suburbs, less land will have to be used to accommodate more people.

The need for more housing that is close to jobs, and the link between land use, driving, and environmental preservation all make a strong case for changing development patterns throughout urban regions, in the outlying areas as well as urban cores. In many ways, New Orleans is a city like no other, but in this regard, it is no different.