goto Appendx main menu Ring City : George Thrush
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Physical and Cultural Fragmentation 
To speak of fragmentation in American cities is really to speak of many problems at once, and the task of addressing them is nothing short of prescribing a partial solution to the social, political, economic, cultural, and spatial fragmentation in the United States since World War II. Obviously, in many ways this is an absurd objective. The very idea of proposing a solution seems at once arrogant and hopelessly naive. The problems involved, to the extent that one views them as problems, are so complex, multifaceted, interdependent, multidisciplinary, and intractable as to defy solution. But recognition of this fragmentation—the ongoing physical dispersion of population outward from our city centers and the decreasing common ground that seems to exist in that small part of our culture that remains noncommercial—underlies a great deal of our public discourse. 

These two parallel types of fragmentation, physical and cultural, can be further broken down into more specific subcategories to highlight their similarity and interdependence.  The subcategories I have chosen are movement, politics, scale, and identity. We will see that transportation and urban design can play a large role in affecting each of these areas. I will briefly outline the manifestations of fragmentation in each of them because they will each be addressed in the description of the Ring City proposal.Appendx 3 page break 135 | 136 

For the better part of this century, and especially since World War II, America has seen a revolution in transportation and movement, as the private automobile has come to dominate how we move on a daily basis. There are many reasons for this, including publicly subsidized highway infrastructure and gasoline prices that made (and continue to make) automobile travel artificially inexpensive. More than any other single factor, the automobile made the suburbs possible. 

As we have moved our low-density suburban settlement patterns ever outward, the distances between us have grown ever greater.  This lifestyle requires constant driving because our suburban settlements are too spread out to allow for cost-effective public transportation, and we have replaced walking neighborhoods in small towns and the traditional city with a vast region accessible only by car; friends are separated by driving distances even when they live in the same town. 

This is only a problem, however, when people are no longer willing to move  to these areas or able to spend increasing portions of their income and time on automobile commuting. While it would seem logical, and almost imperative, that their would be a limit to such investment, this view rests on the idea that the proximity to the center of the traditional city is the critical factor in determining how much driving is too much. But in Edge City,12 Joel Garreau shows us how the new world of peripheral suburban minicities has in many respects supplanted the old center city as the focus for the commuting suburbanite. As a result, we find suburban residents commuting between suburbs, rather than from suburb to city center; the distance from the original city center that will still support development may grow to be infinite. If one ring of edge cities begets another, our entire landscape could eventually be sprinkled with low-density suburbs connected by highways. And people would continue to inhabit them, because their commute would not necessarily get longer; they would simply work in a newer outer edge city closer to home. 

Sheer distance, then, already separates a large number of the citizens of our expanding metropolitan areas from one another, but that distance coupled with lack of access to transportation makes the relationship between urban neighborhoods and the suburbs and edge cities even more tenuous. In The Fractured Metropolis,13 Jonathan Barnett points not only to the emergence of edge cities surrounding existing urban centers, but to "new cities" that are replacing the "old cities" they adjoin. The potential consequences of these two distinct trends are very different. It is easier to imagine an edge city working with other edge cities to reinforce an existing center,Appendx 3 page break 136 | 137 whereas the new city/ old city dichotomy described by Barnett is much more ominous. He describes the phenomenon as, literally, "cities pulling apart." 

The simple problem with this pulling apart is that it requires us to spend larger portions of our income on transportation. Even if we don't spend more time driving, we must build and maintain roads farther out into the countryside. But the other, more disturbing problem with this fissure between those who move out to the suburbs and those who don't is that only those who can afford an automobile have the choice to do so. This is where problems of movement enter the realm of politics. 

When I was growing up in Chicago in the 1960s and 1970s, the problem was called "white flight." As white ethnic neighborhoods started to become more racially integrated, the former residents fled to the "safety" of the still-white suburbs. The intensity of the urban departures seems to have decreased since then, but they continue nonetheless. The reasons are real: terrible urban schools, crime, high housing costs. Added to theis, of course, is racism. But the "flight" of more economically advantaged citizens away from the less advantaged is more injurious to society when it crosses the political boundary between city and suburb than when it occurs within the same city or town. For these people aren't merely moving from a poor neighborhood to a richer one (this has gone on forever in America, and will likely continue to do so), they are profoundly altering the balance of society's costs and benefits. Lack of access to transportation and movement may be a reason for it, but many of our cities are increasingly dominated by poor, undereducated people who need society's help. And the cities have fewer people to do the helping. The result is an urban/suburban politics of separatism. 

This separatism is not a simple exercise of choice between one lifestyle and another. Rather, it amounts to suburbanites stripping benefits from the city, while evading their costs. Many suburban residents  still work in the city, derive their incomes from it, and enjoy the cultural and recreational amenities that exist there (particularly in older cities). But they pay little or no taxes to support these enterprises. We often use the word assimilation in reference to members of a minority group subsuming themselves into the majority culture, but in this case we might use it to describe what suburban residents ought to do in our cities. We need to assimilate our suburbs back into our metropolitan society. The notion of a metropolitan society implies a metropolitan government, and the lack of such government is oneAppendx 3 page break 137 | 138 of the things that keeps our citizens apart and our metropolitan areas fragmented. A metropolitan government would turn the city, suburbs, and edge cities into a single political unit. Metropolitan government, the political bridge between city and suburb,  is the natural political partner for Ring page 

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