Synopses & Reviews
More than five decades have passed since Jane Jacobs wrote her classic The Death and Life of Great American Cities
, and since a front page headline in the New York Times
read, "Cars Choking Cities as 'Urban Sprawl' Takes Over." Yet sprawl persists, and not by mistake. It happens for a reason.
As an activist and a scholar, Benjamin Ross is uniquely placed to diagnose why this is so. Dead End traces how the ideal of a safe, green, orderly retreat where hardworking members of the middle class could raise their children away from the city mutated into the McMansion and strip mall-ridden suburbs of today. Ross finds that sprawl is much more than bad architecture and sloppy planning. Its roots are historical, sociological, and economic. He uses these insights to lay out a practical strategy for change, honed by his experience leading the largest grass-roots mass transit advocacy organization in the United States. The problems of smart growth, sustainability, transportation, and affordable housing, he argues, are intertwined and must be solved as a whole. The two keys to creating better places to live are expansion of rail transit and a more genuinely democratic oversight of land use.
Dead End is, ultimately, about the places where we live our lives. Both an engaging history of suburbia and an invaluable guide for today's urbanists, it will serve as a primer for anyone interested in how Americans actually live.
"I've studied a lot of books on New Urbanism. Every once and a long while one of them opens my eyes to an entirely new way of thinking. Such is Dead End." Robert Steuteville, Better! Cities and Towns
"Ben Ross' Dead End is a highly personal account of a larger journey that we are embarked on as a nation — from sprawl to walkable communities, from anoxic, sterile neighborhoods to vibrant, transit-served urban areas that are the wellspring of innovation, economic development and cultural richness." John Porcari, Former Deputy Secretary, United States Department of Transportation
"Ben Ross paints the big picture of the battle between sprawl and community from the historic perspective, to the current conflicts to a vision of better land use process. Always focused on the human perspective with subjects as diverse as Jane Jacobs and Pete Seeger to Snob Zoning and Agenda 21, Dead End is an exciting, easy read." Parris N. Glendening, President, Smart Growth America's Leadership Institute, and former Governor of Maryland (1995-2003)
"This impressively researched and documented history explains the huge pressures for maintaining a status quo that supports sprawl and is unfriendly to walkable cities. Ross argues convincingly that rail transit is 'the political and mental key that opens the door to urban change.'" Ross Capon, President and CEO, National Association of Railroad Passengers
About the Author
Benjamin Ross was president of Maryland's Action Committee for Transit for 15 years, which grew under his leadership into the nation's largest grass-roots transit advocacy group. He is a consultant on environmental problems and served on committees of the National Academy of Sciences and EPA Science Advisory Board. He writes frequently on political and social topics in Dissent Magazine and is the author of The Polluters: The Making of Our Chemically Altered Environment.
Table of Contents
Introduction - Escape from the suburbs
Part I - Getting Hooked
Chapter 1 - The strange birth of suburbia
Chapter 2 - Planners and embalmers
Chapter 3 - Government-sponsored sprawl
Chapter 4 - Ticky-tacky boxes
Chapter 5 - Jane Jacobs vs. the planners
Chapter 6 - Saving the city
Chapter 7 - The age of the nimby
Part II - The Sprawl Addiction
Chapter 8 - Spreading like cancer
Chapter 9 - The war of greed against snobbery
Chapter 10 - A new thirst for city life
Chapter 11 - Backlash from the right
Chapter 12 - The language of land use
Part III - How to Kick the Habit
Chapter 13 - Struggles for smart growth
Chapter 14 - Democratic urbanism
Chapter 15 - Affordable housing in an ownership economy
Chapter 16 - On track toward livable cities