Reverse Zone has written an interesting post on ways to reduce Greenhouse Gas emissions through reverse zoning, that is, to place the more dense developments on the fringes of the city and to place the single-family larger lots near the city center to encourage more people who currently drive to walk, bike, or ride transit to work. They argue that those on the more dense ends of the development will still ride transit. They also state that that all neighborhoods should be developed at a walkable scale to encourage people to take less trips by car (In Suburban Nation it is stated that people feel “dumb” riding somewhere in their cars that is located less than half a mile away).
I find this a very interesting concept. A few things I thought about though: 1) Some people want that large house on the fringes of the city to feel like they have a rural lifestyle. Even though most of us know it’s never what it is cracked up to be. It is only a matter of time before development pressure gives in and the landscape is filled with cookie-cutter homes. 2) By placing the more dense development on the fringes, it makes it more difficult for the poor to get to jobs. Poor people will be forced to ride transit a long distance or get a car, where many previously could have walked or biked to work in the central business district. This leads into… 3) The costs (both capital and societal) of providing excellent transit to the urban fringes will be very high, and this may discourage quality transit development. Part of the reason people do not ride transit in the U.S. is because of the interesting individuals that sometimes ride. This will probably discourage more wealthy people from riding and therefore will be harder to sustain the transit system. And naturally, it will be difficult to provide good system coverage to the outlying parts of the urban area. So placing most of the transit-riding population out there may not be the best solution.
With that said, if a lot of people brainstormed together to really make this concept work, I think it could be possible. After all, some communities are so married to their zoning codes and maps that they might just follow through with their guidelines.