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Tyler Cowen

Cities and Suburbs Are Becoming Pretty Similar

Something is lost as big-box stores move into urban areas and cultural centers are squeezed out.


Photographer: Tim Boyle/Getty Images

A few decades ago the choice for most people was pretty simple: either the city or the suburbs. The city was exciting but a little dangerous. The suburbs were comfortable but bland. These days our suburbs and cities are converging, which is narrowing our lifestyle choices.

Consider the Washington area. The Rosslyn, Clarendon and Ballston parts of Arlington, Virginia -- which are right next to the District of Columbia -- used to be considered suburban, and are still formally classified as such. Yet they are increasingly similar to the Northwest quadrant of Washington. They attract the same young, highly educated demographic; they are crowded; parking is hard to come by. Much of this territory offers easier access to the jobs and amenities of Northwest D.C. than you might have from the lower-income sections of Washington, such as Anacostia. There is also work in progress to turn Tysons Corner -- once the epitome of “edge city” suburban existence -- into a walkable town center, connected to the broader area by the recently inaugurated Metro Silver Line.