Sunday, April 26, 2009

At Home in the City of Oaks

I love living in Raleigh. Even though I don't feel especially close to anyone here, and I don't avail myself of all the opportunities for entertainment and socialization which the city has to offer, I still don't think I'd want to live anywhere else. And while I have loved being in some of the major cities I've visited (London, Boston, and Atlanta, in particular) I can't say that I would really want to live in any of them for extended periods. Instead, I wish some of the best parts of those cities would come to Raleigh.

For instance, all of those cities have underground mass transit systems of one degree or another with the most elaborate being in London. Granted, subways are something which really need to be built at the start of a city's creation, but Raleigh is hoping to construct a ground level regional train system which would connect the city center with a few of its major suburbs and with the cities of Durham and Chapel Hill, the other two points of the Research Triangle. At least its something.

Another benefit more common to Boston and London is the focus of mixed use buildings with retail on ground level, then some blend of commercial and residential space on the higher levels. I'm sure that sounds like a no-brainer if you live in a large city, but it is something which Raleigh only began zoning for within the last 5-10 years. Previously business and residential zoning never mixed here. Thankfully, it seems the gods of progress eventually won out.

Another thing I really loved about the large cities was their friendliness toward two-wheeled vehicles. In London I saw as many Vespas as I saw cars, and in Boston bikes were fairly commonplace in certain areas of the city. Because of their friendliness toward bikes and scooters each city was very pedestrian friendly which led to healthier looking residents. Part of Raleigh's Comprehensive Plan for the next 20 years includes plans to redesign its roads to include and promote greater bike traffic. Couple this with the city's plan to focus growth in only a few select locations to promote urban infilling of currently "suburban" feeling areas of the city and you have a plan for Raleigh's future that I can fully support.

The only problem I have now is my impatience. The current quest to revitalize downtown Raleigh began when I was in high school in 1990. I've been dreaming of what Raleigh would become for 19 years now. And the Comprehensive Plan won't be complete until 2030, if then. I will be 56 years old and will have waited 40 years for Raleigh to transform into the urban metropolis I've been hoping for before it is all done. And by then there will likely be all new ways in which the city could grow and adapt.

Unless Ray Kurzweil's predicted convergence of man and machine comes to fruition there is every likelihood that once Raleigh has become the gleaming City of Oaks I will be too old to fully enjoy it. Now maybe you can see why the idea of becoming a cyborg is so attractive.

Have fun and keep living life... because the future could come any day now.

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