Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Walkable Philadelphia

A bit of blogospheric hubub about Richard Florida's post at The Atlantic about walkable cities being the post-recession future of America. "The great economic reset we are in the midst of extends even to Americans' choices of places to live," he write. "The popularity of sprawling auto-dependent suburbs is waning. A majority of Americans--six in 10--say they would prefer to live in walkable neighborhoods, in both cities and suburbs, if they could."

It's not just a lifestyle preference, though: It's also economics. We sold our car when we moved to Philadelphia in 2008 -- lured, yes, in part by Philadelphia's high ranking on's list of cities. But our yuppified desires would've been somewhat restrained had we not figured that the high cost of living in the city could be offset, in large part, by going autoless: the money we don't spend on gas, parking, maintenance and car replacement has (at times) proven to be the critical and necessary edge we've needed to be able to afford to stay here.

It has also worked in reverse: Adding the cost of a vehicle -- or two, realistically, depending on where we would end up -- makes the idea of moving to a less-walkable city that much tougher to swallow. Would the lower rent and mortgages back in Kansas offset the hundreds of dollars a month we'd spend on getting around? Unlikely. And that's ok. It's a good excuse for us to stay in a town and Center City neighborhood where we can be at the grocery store in five minutes, or the coffee shop in two, or the pizza joint in six. We like life like that.


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