Commentary

For Singles Suburbia Reigns

A new survey of home purchases by singles turned up something surprising for city watchers: 52 percent chose suburbs over urban or rural areas. The survey reveals a couple of other interesting tidbits as well:

  • “Fifty-five percent have less than a 30-minute commute to their office or work from home, and 40 percent live less than 30 minutes or even in the same neighborhood as their parents or extended family. In fact, an additional 12 percent live with at least one family member.”

Essentially, the survey is confirming the “Law of Constant Travel Time” where people tend to locate close to their jobs and home. They will move to accomodate a commuting trip of about 30 minutes. Adrian Moore and I talk about this in our book Mobility First and how it fundamentally is changing travel patterns and should be incorporated into our regional transportatino planning.

What is motivating these suburban home purchases? Perhaps forward thinking women:

  • “More single women (27 percent) said that the number of bedrooms was the most desirable feature in a home, than did men (18 percent).”

Woman may be thinking about space needs as their family grows, or their network of friends neeeding a safe place to stay expands.

Thus, suburbia is far from dead; it’s alive and kicking as I discussed in a Planetizen.com blog post recently. Ironically, these results confirm something I said more than 10 years ago in my policy study The Sprawling of America: In Defense of the Dynamic City. Suburbs have become cities in and of themselves. They have the social networks, mobility, and increasingly even the densities to take on true urban functional characteristics (e.g., access to jobs and services) if not the built form of past cities (high density clusters of housing and businesses).

Samuel R. Staley, Ph.D. is a senior research fellow at Reason Foundation and managing director of the DeVoe L. Moore Center at Florida State University in Tallahassee where he teaches graduate and undergraduate courses in urban planning, regulation, and urban economics. Prior to joining Florida State, Staley was director of urban growth and land-use policy for Reason Foundation where he helped establish its urban policy program in 1997.

Staley is the author of several books, most recently co-authoring Mobility First: A New Vision for Transportation in a Globally Competitive 21st Century (Rowman & Littlefield, 2008). Texas Gov. Rick Perry aid Staley and Moore "get it right" and world bank urban planner Alain Bartaud called it "a must read for urban managers of large cities in the United States and around the world."

He is also co-author, with Ted Balaker, of The Road More Traveled: Why The Congestion Crisis Matters More Than You Think, and What We Can Do About It (Rowman and Littlefield, September, 2006). Author Joel Kotkin said, "The Road More Traveled should be required reading not only for planners and their students, but anyone who loves cities and wants them to thrive as real places, not merely as museums, in the 21st Century." Former U.S. Secretary of Transportation Mary Peters said, "Balaker and Staley clearly debunk the myth that there is nothing we can do about congestion."

Staley's previous book, Smarter Growth: Market-based Strategies for Land-use Planning in the 21st Century (Greenwood Press, 2001), was called the "most thorough challenge yet to regional land-use plans" by Planning magazine.

In addition to these books, he is the author of Drug Policy and the Decline of American Cities (Transaction Publishers, 1992) and Planning Rules and Urban Economic Performance: The Case of Hong Kong (Chinese University Press, 1994).

His more than 100 professional articles, studies, and reports have appeared in publications such as The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Investor's Business Daily, Journal of the American Planning Association, Planning magazine, Reason magazine, National Review and many others.

Staley's approach to urban development, transportation and public policy blends more than 20 years of experience as an economic development consultant, academic researcher, urban policy analyst, and community leader.

Staley is a former chair for his local planning board in his hometown of Bellbrook, Ohio. He is also a former member of its Board of Zoning Appeals and Property Review Commission, vice chair of his local park district's open space master plan committee, and chair of its Charter Review Commission.

Staley received his B.A. in Economics and Public Policy from Colby College, M.S. in Social and Applied Economics from Wright State University, and Ph.D. in Public Administration, with concentrations in urban planning and public finance from Ohio State University.