Skip to main content

Big City Burbs or Smaller City Core?

A friend of the blog posed this question to me recently:
Would you rather live in the suburbs of a big city (say, in New Jersey, 15 miles northwest of Manhattan) or the core of a smaller city (say, Downtown Kansas City)?
I think the answer is more complicated than a simple either/or. On-balance, my answer would be Kansas City. A neighborhood is the place were you spend the majority of your time. Being close to Manhattan is neat, but there's still a 15 mile buffer between you and the city. You might visit once or twice a month, but your experience will be limited to that of a 'weekender'. As I recently noted, being close to something 'by car' does not mean you will experience it the same ways that a true local does.

(from Flickr user jonathan_moreau)

But like I said, it's rarely so simple, and brings up another question I've been wanting to address: reverse commutes. In a tough recession, beggers can't be choosers. Maybe you find a job in the suburbs of a big city, say, 15 miles from its downtown. If you're like me, would it be better to live in the same (potentially uncool) suburb as your job? Or would it be better to live in a hip urban neighborhood and drive your car out to the suburbs and back every day.

In this case I would say that it's better to live in the suburb where your job is located. The reason is twofold. First, reverse commutes don't really exist anymore. The typical flow of cars into cities in the morning and into the suburbs in the afternoon is becoming a thing of the past. Now people are driving every whichway at all times of day, so the idea that you can avoid traffic is becoming a fallacy. Second, the added cost and stress that you take on by living far away from your primary responsibility (in this case, your job) refutes much of the benefit of living in a hip neighborhood. If you're exhausted every night from making a long commute, it doesn't matter how much awesome stuff you're coming home to in the evenings. Presumably, you're paying a big premium to live in the neighborhood with cool amenities, but if you can't take full advantage of them, then it might not be a good value.

That said, this is a highly debatable question. If you think about these situations as a fluid long-term phenomenon, instead of as a fixed period in time, then you're in a position to say, "sure, I don't love living and working in the suburbs, but my long term goal can be to find another job in a more ideal area and work my way in from there." At least that's how I would try to think about it.


Dave Reid said…
From my point of view you do the reverse commute. The job is just part of your life, once ur done for the day living in a dense neighborhood still has all the advantages of walkability, mixed-use... so on that you can take advantage at night and on the weekend. Then find job closer to home.

Popular posts from this blog

In Praise of Southwest's 'C' Boarding Group

A few weeks ago I saw a tweet from someone complaining that their Southwest Airlines boarding pass had been assigned A20 (meaning they would be at least one of the first twenty passengers to board the plane). Apparently this person though they should have been assigned a higher number, less their flight experience be considerably spoiled.

Despite the complaints, Southwest has resisted demands to assign seats on its flights, a decision which I personally applaud. I'll admit that I was skeptical when they rolled out the newest boarding procedure, assigning both boarding groups and a line number; but in hindsight it seems like one of the best operational decisions they've ever made. If nothing else, it effectively eliminated the infamous "cattle call" whereby fliers were getting to airports hours in advance and sitting in line on the floor as if they were waiting for the midnight showing of the new Star Wars movie.

When I was an intern at Southwest Airlines last winter, I…

So You Want to be a Southwest Airlines Intern?

My personal website must have pretty decent SEO - because in the past year, I've received about two dozen emails from aspiring Southwest Airlines interns looking to draw on my experience in search of their own dream internship. In the past two weeks alone a few new emails have already started rolling in...

(from flickr user San Diego Shooter)

If you've found your way here, you might be hoping for the silver bullet; a secret tip that will propel you above the competition. Unfortunately, I do not know any inside secrets. I can only share my experience as an internship candidate about two years ago and, rather than responding individually to future emails I anticipate to receive, I hope that potential interns will find the information posted here valuable.

Understand: Southwest Airlines is a very unique company. The corporate culture at Southwest is truly unlike that of nearly every other company. But you probably already knew that, since it now seems mandatory for every management,…

Commuting Meets Technology

I'm finally out of the dark ages. I got an Android smartphone over the weekend and have since been in the process of exploring the Android apps market.  One thing I've immediately noticed is the really wide range of usefulness in the apps. For example, the WeatherBug app is fantastic. It automatically determines your location and gives you exact conditions for that location. On the other end of the spectrum, Google's Goggles app is supposed to be a type of 'visual search' where you snap of photo of something and Google searches for it. In each of my attempts to use it, the app hasn't returned any search results. I even took a photo of a bottle of Pepsi (figuring it as a common houseful item) and got nothing.

Somewhere in the middle is this app called Waze. Have a look at their 'guided tour':

Some people might look at it and comment on the amazing evolution of technology or on the incredible value of social networks. To me, Waze says something important ab…