I like walkable urban centers, so I want to take a hopeful view of this Washington Post report about the future of Tysons Corner. Unfortunately for my belief, the story ends with one of the most foolish quotes I’ve ever read about the future of the American city, from Joel Garreau, normally a smart guy.
With broadband, employees no longer need to physically be transported to work. He sees Americans moving to scenic, ideal locations such as the mountains of Montana or the hills of Santa Fe. Garreau splits his time between Fauquier County and Arizona.
“What you’re seeing now is what I call the Santa Fe-ing of the world, or the Santa Fe-ing of America,” he said. “The fastest growth you’re seeing is in small urban areas in beautiful places, because now you’ve got e-mail and Web and laptops and iPhones and all that jazz.”
Here’s one thing we know about the America of the future: It’s going to contain lots and lots and lots of poor, low-skilled people – in percentage terms, many more than the America of, say, 1995. And the America of 1995 already contained tens of millions of poor, low-skilled people. Those people won’t be telecommuting from Santa Fe. If your vision of the future of the American city does not include those people, it’s going to be missing a very large fact.
Which is why, when you look at the actual list of the actual top 10 fastest-growing US cities of 2000-2010, you see no examples of small scenic places (unless you count Orlando, Florida, which I sure wouldn’t). Instead you see:
1. Houston: 1,231,393 individuals added over past decade
2. Dallas-Fort Worth: 1,210,229
3. Atlanta: 1,020,879
4. Riverside, Calif.: 970,030
5. Phoenix: 941,011
6. Washington, D.C.: 785,987
7. Las Vegas: 575,504
8. New York: 574,107
9. Miami: 557,071
10. Orlando, Fla.: 489,850
The growth of course is driven in almost every case by immigration, rather than internal migration. Meanwhile, the sort of places that Garreau likes are doing their best to control and slow growth precisely because they do not want to end up looking in any way more like Houston or Riverside, California.