5 signs your town sucks.

  1. “Homes from the 400s!”
  2. highway noise walls
  3. neighborhood locations described in terms of highway exits
  4. “traffic and weather together on the 8s”
  5. Fuddruckers

85 thoughts on “5 signs your town sucks.”

  1. I spent the past two days in Northern Virginia; this is how I vent. Old Town Alexandria is nice, if a bit Disneyworld in parts. But the drive from Alexandria to Fairfax was wretched, as was the drive from Fairfax to Manassas. It’s a suburban wasteland. I cannot comprehend why anybody would willingly subject themselves to living in such a place.

    If I had to pick between taking a .22 in the shoulder and living in that sprawl, I wouldn’t hesitate to choose the former.

  2. Because the jobs pay well and can present even greater opportunities in the future. At least, that is the only excuse I can find. But I agree, traffic in Northern Virginia is awful, and improvement is nowhere in sight. Forget commuting, just live close to where you work.

  3. This is why my husband telecommutes. The office was in Rosslyn when we moved down here. Now it’s in Falls Church. He’s been up three times since 2002.

  4. It wasn’t always like that. I bought a home in Alexandria in 1975 for $55,000. It was and still is a quiet, older, leafy, and pleasant neighborhood. The view of Northern Virginia as seen from 66 is not all there is. There are real people there who live their lives, go to church, play ball with their kids, and have interesting professions and hobbies. Calling it a wasteland does not do them justice, furthermore, if it is a wasteland, how is that any different from being an urban wasteland, or a rural one, for that matter? When you can measure your value judgements, then we can talk. Your five ways, is a start, but it is just a start.

    BTW. The place I bought in Alexandria is now two homes each valued at well over $600,000. For several years I was making more money going to sleep at night than I was going to work the next day. If I had to do it over again today, there would be no way I could afford it. It took a lot of spaghetti as it was. I don’t see how yu can stop sprawl unless you make the inner areas far more affordable, but the people who live there will fight tooth and nail to see that their advantages are not eroded.

    So, someone looking for the equivalent of that $55,000 home today is going to have to look somehere else, and that is going to make what you call the suburban wasteland even larger.

  5. “If I had to pick between taking a .22 in the shoulder and living in that sprawl, I wouldn’t hesitate to choose the former.”

    Dude! Stick it out in Charlottesville, and you won’t have to choose! You can have both an aging, sclorotic roadway system and drunken hunters stumbling through the leafy suburbs with rifles! Chewing up rural areas to create cul-de-sacs and McMansions offers the best of both worlds.

  6. See, I live literally a two minute walk from the Fuddruckers in Alexandria and it does suck. A lot. Waldo, why, why, why didn’t you let me know you were coming, there are decent places to eat in Alexandria, you know! If you had driven an additional three minutes west on Duke Street, you would have found a terrific family owned Greek and Italian place. If you were in Old Town, hell, I worked in a restaurant there, you could have gotten a freakin’ discount! (Or some reccomondations, whichever)

    “Traffic and weather on the 8s” does not suck though. It is useful! (I remember driving home from work with my friend and we’d listen religiously to figure out which of the 5 ways to go home we would choose–ok, I’m helping your point here, aren’t I?) Of course, I grew up in the DC area, I’m used to this and get uncomfortable when the things that you think make a town suck are not there…

    You forgot another wonder of Alexandria- the constant growth of Starbucks! We’ve got 10 in Alexandria right now, according to starbucks.com (though I discount the one in National, the one on Jeff Davis highway and the one on Richmond Highway as not being in “alexandria proper”), and one forthcoming. :)

  7. Let’s see, of those 5, Bristol has two (2 and 3). I don’t know what “the 8s” is, so I doubt we have it.

    So, yeah, we’re getting there…

  8. Screw that, dude! I love Fuddruckers! Great burgers.

    Fuddruckers isn’t the problem, any more than little signs that say “Homes in the $X00s” are a sign. They’re symptoms.

    If you had driven an additional three minutes west on Duke Street, you would have found a terrific family owned Greek and Italian place.

    As a matter of fact, I did just that. Except that I walked, because it was only a mile and walking is a way better way to take in a new city. Friends were kind enough to take me out to dinner at a Greek place on the 800 block of Duke Street. We sat out back on the patio and had a delicious two-hour dinner.

    But your offer is very kind, though. :)

    “Traffic and weather on the 8s” does not suck though. It is useful!

    Oh, I don’t doubt it’s a useful service, much as Fuddruckers may, in fact, be a tasty restaurant. (Though I have my doubts about any place named on the basis that it sounds a lot like “fuck.” *giggle*) But if you need that service, you might live someplace that (I think) sucks.

  9. Oh, yeah, I’ve been to that one. I was thinking about one within walking distance of my place, which is way the heck on the West End of Alexandria, not in Old Town. (That would be the 4600 block of Duke, perhaps not something you would have cared to walk to if you were in Old Town)

  10. During all the years I lived in and around C’ville we never had, nor needed, “traffic on the 8s.” Then I moved to Richmond which does have it, but very, very rarely needs it. (The powers that be in Henrico, and to a lesser extent in Chesterfield, met the need for roads by building them, or at least helping ensure that they got built. What a stunner.)

    The funny thing now is that C’ville drivers need “traffic on the 8s” FAR more than do Richmond drivers. From anywhere in Richmond, at virtually any time of day, you can get to any point 25 miles away in about half an hour. The same has not been true of C’ville in many years.

    Commuters from north of town must listen for any problems on 29 in time to take evasive action. If you didn’t have your radio on, and missed Dick Mountjoy’s report about a tie-up at Airport Road, or Hollymead, or at Rio, or whatever, and you’re trying to get downtown or to UVA… you’re screwed. And those happen far too regularly. This part of C’ville definitely sucks. Not nearly on the level that it sucks in NoVa, but it really sucks.

    I’ve only been to one Fuddruckers, and yeah, it really, really sucks. Gimme Carytown Burgers, Martin’s Grill or Five Guys any day.

  11. Although I am sure there are things about living in a city or town that are positives, I changed in 2002 from a lifelong city dweller to a die-hard rural champion. After having lived in bigger cities all my life, I found that all the things a person hears about living in a rural area (inconvenient, far from work, etc) didn’t apply to me. I just didn’t need them anymore.

    I enjoy cities, but from afar, like a person would admire a painting from a distance. Hell, I think it is great to go to Charlottesville, but I always get lost. I would rather not go to Richmond except to see family and go to the doctor or hospital. The non-stop ‘choices’ offered there are not enticing to me. It seems that when I drive in most of the Richmond Metro area, I see a non-stop commercial extravaganza that just isn’t appealing to me anymore.

    I do have some favorite cities that I love to visit; Denver, San Francisco, New York City. Not that the above descriptions of Richmond aren’t also true in those places, it is just that I know I will never live there and and the cities have much to offer in terms of activities I like, food I like and scenery I like. Denver because I was born there, SF because it is in most ways the greatest city in the United States, and New York City for the pure spectacle of it and tons of great things to do.

    As for the list, I would add:

    6. You routinely take a .22 in the shoulder. (not for avoidance)

    7. You see more homeless people than pedestrians. (Although out of sight-out of mind applies here for some people.)

    I can gladly say that 1-7 do not even remotely apply to where I live. And boy, am I glad. (This does not mean I am not concerned about the quality of life everywhere. I routinely participate in activities that I feel will improve the area where I am and all areas generally)

    Now it’s off to work in the gardens.

  12. “I cannot comprehend why anybody would willingly subject themselves to living in such a place.”

    For the public schools — there’s my short answer (I guess you don’t have children?) My kids are in HS now so we only have a couple of years left … in the meantime, our house has almost tripled in value. Not a bad deal at all!

  13. Waldo:

    If you got have a beer with Dick Cheney at a Northern Virginia establishment, you would not have to choose between the .22 in the shoulder and living up there…

  14. LAR: “For the public schools — there’s my short answer (I guess you don’t have children?)”

    Is there something unique about NoVa schools? Quality that is not delivered elsewhere in Virginia? Since I don’t know much about how schools compare to each other throughout the Commonwealth, I took the Virginia Department of Education’s “Virginia School Report Card” statistics [1], ran them through some spreadsheet tasks, and sorted them by percentage of passing (race indiscriminate) in English, then math, then science.

    Of the “top” 10 Virginia Divisions of Schools, only two are in the Washington “NoVa” area — both of which appear in the lower half. This includes Falls Church (6th) and Fairfax (10th). I’ll even toss number 11 in there: Loudoun County.

    There are certainly copious additional factors that should be considered when evaluating quality of education, and I’m confident there’s a wealth of advantages to attending school around DC; however, using the most primitive, superficial metric of evaluation — passing percentage — there are many ‘superior’ alternatives that would fit concurrently within Waldo’s framework of tolerable insanity (e.g., Tidewater (West Point, Poquoson, York), Lexington, and Roanoke (Salem City and Botetourt County)).

    [1] School, Division, and State Report Cards 2005

  15. You think Northern Virginia’s bad. You should try Los Angeles. 3 different traffic and weather on the “6′s”. Condo’s from the 400′s. (houses from the 1.5mil). A two hour commute to drive 15 miles.

  16. Justin- They made a movie about my Northern Virginia high school, so, uh, obviously, if you want your children to attend a school that Denzel Washington visited…

    Oh, and Cheney is most frequently spotted at Milano’s, which is in Georgetown, not Northern Virginia. :D

  17. To avoid any confusion, I’m not talking about the price of homes, the availability of news reports on the radio or the quality of Fuddruckers.

    What annoys me are the billboards in development suburban neighborhoods that prominently display who’s in which economic class, and carefully keep them all separate, not the actual home values. And the need for traffic news reports every ten minutes. And I’ve never seen a Fuddruckers in any place that I didn’t hate. Neighborhood locations in terms of highway exits meaning that when somebody’s asked where they live, and their knee-jerk reaction is “exit 16,” or “just off exit 223B” — that’s clearly a place where walkability doesn’t exist. Highway noise walls are a symptom of overpriced land and nonexistent urban planning, to say nothing of hideous.

    These aren’t problems. They’re signs of problems.

  18. “I cannot comprehend why anybody would willingly subject themselves to living in such a place.”

    For my equestrian neighborhood.

    For my neighbors who are international and culturally diverse.

    For my road which is a scenic Virginia by-way.

    For my charming town of Vienna.

    For my historic church (over 3,000 members)

    For the accessibllity of a 15 minute drive to Dulles.

    For Wolf Trap. For the Kennedy Center. For all the professional sports available, football, basketball, baseball, etc.

    For the day program and group home for my mentally retarded son.

    For the many colleges and unversities in the metro area.

    For the fact that we have lived here since 1961 and never regretted it.

    For the fact that I have never referred to directions to my house by an exit sign.

    For the jobs that bring the younger members of our families to this area to live and raise their families and educate their children in our schools.

    One hardship, realestate tax. Nothing new there.

  19. my equestrian neighborhood

    Huh? What’s that? Are your neighbors horses? Do all of your neighbors own horses? I’m thinking if I wanted horses, I wouldn’t want to keep them near the highway noise walls and the Fuddruckers.

    I’m thinking that Parenthia Page sounds a bit too defensive. If somebody lives in a charming town on a scenic Virginia by-way, among the horses, that’s not the neighborhood that Waldo seems to be describing.

    But, I’m pleased to know that she’s as happy with her home as I am with mine.

  20. Actually, Harry, she’s probably talking about old-growth Vienna, which is a true pleasure. And, as it happens, not above an occasional plot of land with a horse on it on Trap Road.

    The only problem I can see with old-growth Vienna is that I can’t afford it. Ditto with Arlington.

    The point Parenthia makes about NoVA being an ethnically diverse region is in my mind the biggest draw. You just can’t get that in Stuarts Draft, no matter how hard you try. You can’t even get it in Richmond, really; everyone’s either black or white, and in their own unofficially separate neighborhoods. NoVA IS diverse, in the real sense, and without a college town temporarily forcing people together in the name of higher education who wouldn’t ordinarily come near one another. It’s a blessing. I know there are other places in this fair country where this is the case, but I’ve yet to find another in the Commonwealth.

    Oh, and they do take the signs down showing how expensive the houses or lots are once they’re done selling them, Waldo. :) (And if you can find a new construction single fam “from the 400′s” this side of Markham, you’ve got my number…)

    Further, while I won’t doubt that the rest of Virginia likewise has some fine public high schools (my sister went to one such school), if one was to take a gander at the most recent US News & World Report Top 100 schools, you’d find that every single Virginia entry can safely be described as residing in Northern Virginia. And there were a lot of them.

    Yes, traffic sucks. Badly. Traffic sucks in most metropolitan areas. Ours is worst than most. (I might add, suburban Maryland is worse if you have to drive, hands down.) Our biggest failures are our inability to keep popular, viable public transportation up with development, and being too damn good at attracting and keeping solid, long term jobs. That, and not figuring out a way to keep so disproportionately much of our tax revenues leaving the region to go to other regions of the Commonwealth. That said, considering how much we do right, how much money we earn for the Commonwealth, and how much we prop up reasonable politics in the Commonwealth, you should be more thankful. :)

    I think, Waldo, that your rant is not so much directed at Northern Virginia but at the suburbs. That’s fine, but let’s call it what it is.

  21. I lived in NOVA for about 3 years now and have never heard a town or location described by exit numbers. This isn’t New Jersey. So if it was a person giving you directions then they were just being helpful in giving you an exit number because quite honestly a city like Alexandria has about 5 exit numbers on different higways.

    I would have suggested 99.1 El Sol instead of WTOP’s “traffic and weather on the eights” but that’s just me. Although I did find the information helpful during the latest flooding to know which roads to avoid. But you’re right, why use technology to help us out.

    Charlottesville is no slice of heaven either but the next time I come down there I’ll take the Pepsi challenge and give you my “five signs your town sucks” list.

  22. not figuring out a way to keep so disproportionately much of our tax revenues leaving the region to go to other regions of the Commonwealth

    I’m not sure if it’s intentional or not, but there’s something sadly ironic about the use of the word “Commonwealth” here. Common-wealth.

  23. Brian, do you mean Newsweek’s list? I just looked it over, and noticed that neither Thomas Jefferson High School for Science & Technology (Fairfax), nor the Governor’s School in Richmond were in the list, although several “regular” NoVa high schools made the cut. Along with one in Berryville. Quite interesting. Those are two of the most prestigious high schools in the country. Also, several “regular” high schools in Henrico are academically superior to any high school besides TJHSST in NoVa. And Henrico has surpassed Fairfax County as far as division-wide school quality.

    Not sure why that is, exactly, but Fairfax certainly seems to be living off a very old rep for having nationally recognized schools.

  24. Well, I say God bless all the folks who are happy living in Northern Virginia.

    (And I’m blowing kisses to Kevin for saying that “Charlottesville is no slice of heaven, either” — keep spreading that around, will you?)

    Now, if only someone would declare that Free Union, Virginia is a real hell-hole, that’d make my day!

  25. I think, Waldo, that your rant is not so much directed at Northern Virginia but at the suburbs.

    Well, yeah. That’s why nowhere in the blog entry does it mention Northern Virginia. :) I’ve been to places like this all over the country. North Dallas springs to mind most readily, but this sort of development is ubiquitous.

  26. From his descriptions in other threads, the mountain on which Waldo and Amber live seems like a slice of heaven.

    Cville, OTOH, is one pile of confusion to me. I get stuck in traffic and/or lost whenever I venture down that way. But I live in Luray, where we’re up to three traffic lights now due to our “sprawl,” so that should be expected. There are definitely more frustrating places to drive in at least 2/3 of the states but Cville and I haven’t made friends yet. Once you get there, tho, the old Mall area has an attraction.

  27. Well, having just returned from Dallas, where I spend I decent amount of time in North Dallas, in particular, Richardson, Plano, and Allen, you’re off on a couple of points:

    1. “Homes from the 400s!”
    According to the USA Today, the Dallas Metroplex is the 2nd most undervalued housing market in the USA. You can get a really nice home there for the low 200s and a great starter home for much, must less.

    2. highway noise walls
    Never saw one of these at least on the highways I was traversing.

    3. neighborhood locations described in terms of highway exits
    Nope. Not in my experience, except for giving directions, which one does around here as well, e.g, try getting someone coming from Richmond to Palymra w/o mentioning the exit off 64.

    4. “traffic and weather together on the 8s”
    I had a 15 mile commute on 75 between the office I was consulting at and the hotel where I was staying. Traffic was never once backed up and I moved along the 15 miles much faster than it takes me to go just the 9 miles I commute from Downtown C’ville to my home.

    5.Fuddruckers
    Didn’t see one, but, sure, they are probably there. But also there’s a taqueria on ever corner the worst of which is far better Tex-Mex than anything you can get in Charlottesville. There’s a little of everything in Dallas. Not so much around here.

    As other commenters have noted, different strokes for different folks. Some people love the bucolic life in small town C’ville. Others want something else.

  28. I Publius,

    Thomas Jefferson is not included because it is ‘a selective admission school.’ Those surveys only include public schools that anybody living in the jurisdiction can attend. Thats why the “regular” schools in NoVa are included. And yes, my children attend TJ and yes, they are incredibly lucky kids to be able to attend an EXTRAORDINARY school.

  29. SouthFork, I think you’ll find my clarifying comments useful.

    I was in Dallas three years ago. While downtown is lovely, North Dallas is beastly. A drive up Preston with short trips east or west will reveal the shockingly uniform Escher-like landscape of houses, complete with “Homes in the $X00s!” signs and highway sound walls.

    Real estate agents even have the phrase “North Dallas special” to describe a really shitty suburban house that’s designed to be appealing only for the first 30 minutes (the time that people spend in a house before deciding to buy it) with no thought put into its usefulness beyond that period.

    As other commenters have noted, different strokes for different folks.

    Well sure. I don’t know who would argue with that.

  30. Well, Crozet`does have Innisfree Village.

    http://www.innisfreevillage.org/index.html

    A wonderful place.

    The Lake Isle Of Innisfree

    Poem lyrics of The Lake Isle Of Innisfree by William Butler Yeats.

    I will arise and go now, and go to Innisfree,
    And a small cabin build there, of clay and wattles made:
    Nine bean-rows will I have there, a hive for the honeybee,
    And live alone in the bee-loud glade.
    And I shall have some peace there, for peace comes dropping slow,
    Dropping from the veils of the morning to where the cricket sings;
    There midnight’s all a glimmer, and noon a purple glow,
    And evening full of the linnet’s wings.
    I will arise and go now, for always night and day
    I hear lake water lapping with low sounds by the shore;
    While I stand on the roadway, or on the pavements grey,
    I hear it in the deep heart’s core

  31. Don’t know, Waldo, I was looking at some pretty gorgeous places in Plano that blow away my current home here. (Disclaimer: I live in a cul de sac, management community here, so you’d hate that too.) And the Plano Whole Foods is really sweet. Oh, and the DART light rail is great way to avoid having to drive.

    And, of course, you’ve to the greatest franchise in NFL history just a short drive away. :)

    Oh, but, right, there is no Downtown Mall. How do they ever survive in Dallas with that? The mind boggles.

  32. Actually, downtown Dallas is quite nice. It’s a wasteland — it seems to have been basically abandoned — but if I had to live down thataway, I’m pretty sure I’d find a place downtown.

    I don’t know anything about Plano. Never been there, never read anything about it.

  33. I. Publius, the Newsweek top schools article did not mention TJ and Maggie Walker for the reasons that LAR mentioned. Maggie Walker was specifically listed with 20 other top selective admission schools that were excluded from the ranking. (Sorry for the off-topicness.)

  34. I want to thank Parenthia Page for posting Yeats’ beautiful poem. It’s one of my favorites.

    While we all stand on our “pavements grey”, it’s nice to be reminded of the paradise that is Innisfree.

    And, yes, Crozet’s own version of Innisfree does wonderful work.

  35. A few bits about Plano that may be of interest (caveat: these come from Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Plano,_Texas)

    + Plano was the first of many cities in Collin County to adopt a master plan for their road system. The Plano grid makes traveling inside the city easy and hassle-free. Usage of divided highways for all major roads allows for higher speed limits on those thoroughfares, generally 40 or 45 MPH but sometimes up to 55 MPH.

    + The Plano Independent School District is the main school district for Plano. This renowned system has consistenly ranked among the top 16% of schools according to SchoolMatch, a national research firm. Twenty-two of the district’s schools have been honored as National Blue Ribbon Schools of Excellence by the U.S. Department of Education and the Plano senior high schools are well-known as feeders to top universities.

    Also the EPA highlights Plano as an example smart growth and mixed-use development.
    http://www.epa.gov/smartgrowth/case/legacy.htm

    So just consider the above before you condemn all of “North Dallas.” :)

  36. How remarkable that Plano would be considered part of Dallas, what with it not being Dallas but, in fact, Plano. Though my wife and I drove clear from Dallas to the Oklahoma border and back again, just to get a feel for the region, I don’t think once saw a sign or a mention of Plano. Yet looking it on a map, it’s clearly part of the same urban region as Dallas.

  37. I’m pretty sure that Plano has a Fuddruckers. And, I think it’s wonderful that Plano is the hometown of Wikipedia-identified Notable Resident Kristin Holt, host of the G4′s “Cheat!,” and a former Dallas Cowboys Cheerleader. Take that, Thomas Jefferson!

    Sometimes, I imagine, there are indisputable facts that one might not want appearing in one’s Wikipedia entry.

  38. The whole metroplex is generally called Dallas or Dallas-Ft. Worth but it includes all those cities like Irving, Arlington, Plano etc.

    There is no clear demarcation between Plano and Dallas, just as there isn’t much of one between leaving Charlottesville city limits and entering Albermarle on Emmet/29N. (And I suspect that someone visiting from out of town would refer to the entire area from Monticello to Airport Rd as “Charlottesville.”)

    It’s been my experience that when people say “North Dallas” they are referring to Richardson, Plano, Allen, Farmers Branch, Carrolton, etc., so in your comment above, that’s what I was responding to.

    But if you literally meant “within the city limits of the North of Dallas,” OK. I don’t want to live there either. (FWIW, though, in the area known as “East Dallas” in the White Rock Lake region there are some really cool older homes, particularly the Craftsmen style, and lots of lots of green space. It’s quite gorgeous and most C’ville types would like it there and find a lot in common with the folks who live there with regard to preservation, love of dogs, biking, and the like.)

    Meanwhile, as a Texan temporarily living in VA, I have a duty to defend the Lone Star State’s honor.

  39. I conceeded the Fudrucker’s point earlier:

    Fuddruckers – 0.9 miles NW – 2205 N Central Expy # 100, Plano, 75075 – (972) 881-1890
    Fuddruckers – 7.9 miles W – 4520 Frankford Rd, Dallas, 75287 – (972) 818-3833
    Fuddruckers – 8.4 miles NW – 2947 Preston Rd, Frisco, 75034 – (214) 705-6434

    But I counter with Whataburger. The best fast-food hamburger chain in the USA, available only in Texas (well, there’s a few scattered around LA and FL.)
    http://www.whataburger.com/

  40. I used to believe that living close to work was a great solution, and then I went through the dot-com bust and had four jobs in four years. (I’d been pretty lucky before then.) Living close to work is never going to be a solution unless our economy changes so workers are not just interchangeable parts, or our government changes so there’s some support to change that direction.

  41. I have a duty to defend the Lone Star State’s honor.

    I would imagine that, since 20 January 2001, you’ve not rested much. I would have thought that some kind of traumatic stress disorder would have disabled you by now.

  42. You are very welcomed, Harry. No, my neighbors don’t resemble their horses a bit, not even a little bit. ;-)

  43. Naw, I’m in the income bracket that likes tax cuts. Besides, ol’ W can fend for himself just fine. Just ask the Honorable Senator Kerry and his lovely wife. :)

    And as for Texans who are experiencing stress, I’m sure Ms. Maines and her Chicas de Dixie speak for them right fine, as does House Member Sheila Jackson Lee.

    There’s room for all in the big state of Texas.

  44. Oh, oh. If I came off like suggesting that your neighbors looked like horses, I’m in trouble.

    I just don’t quite understand what an equestrian neighborhood is. Some of my neighbors have horses, but I don’t. Does that mean I live in an equestrian neighborhood? Or does it involve something more formal, like shared stable facilities?

  45. Waldo said:

    “Well, yeah. That’s why nowhere in the blog entry does it mention Northern Virginia. :) I’ve been to places like this all over the country. North Dallas springs to mind most readily, but this sort of development is ubiquitous. ”

    Earlier Waldo said:

    “I spent the past two days in Northern Virginia; this is how I vent. Old Town Alexandria is nice, if a bit Disneyworld in parts. But the drive from Alexandria to Fairfax was wretched, as was the drive from Fairfax to Manassas. It’s a suburban wasteland. I cannot comprehend why anybody would willingly subject themselves to living in such a place.

    If I had to pick between taking a .22 in the shoulder and living in that sprawl, I wouldn’t hesitate to choose the former. ”

    So Waldo you do mention it. Not in your post but in the comments that follow. It’s fine if you want to get down on suburbia but the perception of your holier than thou attitude was apparent in the comments.

  46. You forgot the most important qualifier of all:

    #1) you don’t know any of your neighbors (of the 6 houses or apartment doors closest to yours) by first name

    I can put up with high or even low pricing, though I hate class/income level segregated housing developments in general. I much prefer mixed incomes in the same neighborhood, more interesting. Easier to high a sitter, lawn mowing job, snow removal…

    I don’t like what traffic noise walls imply either, but I can deal with it so long as my neighbors are friendly and decent folks I like to invite over for a BBQ.

    I’ve never lived anywhere described by highway exits, though I miss the place described by bike trail access points (sigh… I REALLY miss the accessibility from that place). Though I think I could tolerate it if my neighbors were friendly and invited me over for a BBQ or a movie from time to time.

    Traffic is unbelievable anywhere near Washington DC – and I really hate it, but I love the racial and ethnic integration enormously. There really is an enormous amount of cultural and social activity around here.
    Funny, I frequently complain that I now live in an area with traffic reports, when I used to live where there were surf reports (Oahu for a few years) and snow (ski) reports (Upstate New York). Yet I voluntarily live where there are traffic reports because I largely skip traffic (telecommute, drive off hours, use public transit and ride my bike), and because the traffic is because there is something to drive to.

    Upstate New York is beautiful, has four full seasons, has decent skiing; and there is no work at all, no entertainment, and very little culture left since all the jobs went away. Hawaii has incredible surf, delightfully boring weather, and is just as expensive as here, but with fewer high tech jobs. I’ll reluctantly take the traffic and fight tooth and nail for better public transportation and growth planning.

    I personally don’t like most fast food (I consider it to be neither), and I am not fond of most chains (neighborhood places always have more charm and tighter focus); but I have to confess that I am willing to have a chain place nearby if it means I get neighbors I can talk to and see regularly.

    Frankly I think television, air-conditioning, and long commutes have more to do with ruining neighborhoods than your very good list. TV, A/C, and spending too long in cars/transit each combine to help ensure that we no longer know the fine people next door.

    Not knowing the folks next door is a realy sigh the neighborhood is shot.

    Connect with your neighbors. Seriously. Invite them to your church, and go visit theirs. Get to know their kids. Talk, about more than the last game or latest traffic.

    When neighbors know each other, everything gets better.

    Odd Irony:
    when I lived in a “garden apartment” my wife and I only knew the lady accross the hall… we knew no one else in our stairwell…

    when we lived in a townhouse we knew the wall-sharing neighbors on one side, but that was it…

    when we lived in a suburban single family home on a 1/4 acre lot, we knew every one on our cull-de-sac and the people behind us on one side – the kids came by for weaving/sewing lessons from Erci, and they tried to teach us to roller-blade (though I suspect that was mostly to laugh at us old folks falling over a lot)

    now we are on a 10 acre lot, and we know everyone on our street and the streets on two sides – it’s too far for the kids to come by regularly, but we help neighbors find lost dogs, cats, and horses (yeah, really – that’s a separate story though).

    Anything strang happens, we all share that knowledge really fast. Most of us know how to get into each other’s homes in an emergency – just in case.

    I feel much better, and wish I’d been older and wiser when I was in apartments.

  47. So Waldo you do mention it. Not in your post but in the comments that follow. It’s fine if you want to get down on suburbia but the perception of your holier than thou attitude was apparent in the comments.

    “Holier than thou” is hardly fair — I just know terrible development patterns when I see them. A brief trip to Charlottesville’s 29N will reveal some pretty horrible development, too, as the immediate prior blog entry is about. But my criticism is only inspired by Northern Virginia, not directed at it. Were that not so, we wouldn’t be talking about Dallas. :)

  48. I once saw a sign around the Dunlora area in Falls Church “From the 1.2 million” Needless to say the housing prices in Cville dont seem outrageous.
    I loved the traffic every ten minutes, but did the weather need to be updated so frequently??

  49. Trvlnmn’s got it right. I just spent a week in LA in trial, and even staying on the Northwest side of town (Westlake Village/Thousand Oaks), and driving to Oxnard for the trial, I hit horrendous traffic in the early evening on a Saturday to meet a client for dinner in Thousand Oaks. Parking sucks. Sad to say, it make me homesick for NoVA.

  50. Lots of great insights here. I’ve very much enjoyed reading everyone’s comments.

    I’ll just share one more snippet about a place that royally sucks (and there are many more than 5 reasons as to why): Blacksburg.

    I spent a year there one day.

  51. Blacksburg is an awkward town. I enjoyed living there while I did, but what I enjoyed about it was living immediately downtown as a student. If I’d lived more than a couple of blocks from there, or if I’d needed to go anywhere other than class, I would have disliked it much more. Their effort at mass transit just didn’t do the trick for me, and the planning outside of the downtown area was haphazard.

  52. Harry, in my view, an equestrian neighborhood is one which has dedicated easements as bridle trails between the houses. Additionally, a small open area with jumps and a reviewing stand within the community for judging horse shows. Some of my neighbors used to take in field boarders, some of them have small barns/stables for their own horses. In Fairfax County the owner must have at least two acres for the first horse, and as horses are herd animals, more than two acres is really humane to accomodate more. We don’t own a horse, but we have enjoyed the beauty of our neighbors’ animals over the years.

  53. Harry, in my view, an equestrian neighborhood is one which has dedicated easements as bridle trails between the houses. Additionally, a small open area with jumps and a reviewing stand within the community for judging horse shows.

    I have never heard of such a thing. That’s really unusual.

  54. So Waldo, does C-Ville mass transit work for you? Is there any city you like other than C-Ville? Do you even live in C-Ville? Did you fall off a horse and bonk your head a little bit? Will you delete this post like you have some others? I guess deletion is the progressive way for the perfect city. You are a born politician who knows what is good for the citizens.

    PS. Were you ever in Dallas at night? Did you enjoy their great mass transit? Did you enjoy the night life? I’m sure you will have a perfect answer for this also.

  55. Yes, it is Waldo.

    When the owners of the land decided to develop it, they required that the developer include these easements, which they deeded to our local riding club, with the stipulation that the members maintain the trails/paths, which they continue to do. The show ring property was deeded to the grandchildren of the owners. When both had passed, the grandchildren sold the property for mcmansions. With the help of community activists and our member on the board of supervisors, the show ring was re-established on a very small vacant piece of property owned by the county on a nearby road. This road also has horseowners. The property was too small for much, so now we have a show ring for all county residents.

    All if this is off of Hunter Mill Road.

    BTW, my husband graduated from VPI, class of ’60. Faithful alumni. I graduated from Radford College, not faithful.

  56. Were that not so, we wouldn’t be talking about Dallas. :)

    Looks like the pro-Dallas posts have been “disappeared.”

    What did someone pull a Frisch and get banned or something?

  57. Looks like a few other posts here have been disappearing as well. Seems as if there is only limited freedom in this democracy.

    I’ve also been banned from the site, despite having never used profanity. My name is now changing…

  58. Looks like a few other posts here have been disappearing as well. Seems as if there is only limited freedom in this democracy.

    I’ve also been banned from the site, despite having never used profanity.

  59. Looks like Spam Karma went nuts. Seven posts were wrongly flagged as spam, four of them retroactively. Thanks for pointing that out, J.R.

    Seems as if there is only limited freedom in this democracy. I’ve also been banned from the site, despite having never used profanity.

    Well, yeah — the right to free expression doesn’t extend to non-government entities or individuals. Way to jump to conclusions, though.

    Oh, and there’s no profanity ban: fuck shit hell damn.

    See?

  60. I guess you couldn’t quite understand the reference that democracy referred to your world of this blog. Perhaps I should try to simplify my expressions.

    “Seems as if the person that runs this web site deletes postings on occasion.”

    While we are jumping to conclusions, do you have data that shows the fact that we’ve all moved away from broadcast TV? Please back that up with stats. In this area, the number relying on broadcast TV has drastically increased due to the lack of HDTV in the area. I hadn’t used an antenna since the 70′s until 3 years ago. I am not alone in that regard. The discussion on forums across the country focus on best methods to get OTA signals for HD.

  61. While we are jumping to conclusions, do you have data that shows the fact that we’ve all moved away from broadcast TV?

    I can only assume that you’re talking about The Hook’s article. You seem to forget that you’re one of approximately six people in the nation that actually own an HDTV. Asserting that people are switching from broadcast to satellite is sort of like asserting that internet usage is increasing; it’s a big duh. Look no further than Wikipedia, the DirecTV and Dish Network pages. The industry is exploding for areas (like Central Virginia outside of Charlottesville) where very few broadcast channels are available and cable’s not an option.

    I’m sorry that your e-mail at work isn’t functioning, and you have to ask such questions in unrelated blog discussions. I hope that gets fixed.

  62. Sorry for my bitchiness in the above posts, Waldo. I’ve been in a cynical mood lately…I get what you’re saying and I wasn’t trying to be intentionally obtuse.

  63. Two things -

    Harry, I’m all for sharing. But there’s nothing that burns a NoVA resident’s bottom quicker than seeing largely empty, wide roadways on Route 288 and the Powhite Parkway in Richmond that could have been spent so much more effectively northward. I don’t have the numbers handy, but the last time I took a look something like 79% of the tax revenues generated in whatever definition of “Northern Virginia”* was being used was being funnelled to activities elsewhere in the state. That’s not terribly fair, and it’s not terribly wise, seeing as we’re going to be expected to continue generating lots of revenue for the state down the road.

    Second, it’s entirely reasonable to know your neighbors in Northern Virginia. I do. It was fun trying to explain to my Honduran-American next-door neighbor in highly broken English how to get one’s drivers license transferred from North Carolina to VA, and how to get to the DMV. Again, I doubt I would have that conversation in Palmyra. :)

    Brian

    * Is Fauquier County mentioned? Stafford? Spotsylvania? Clarke? Frederick? Warren? Page? Culpeper? Various methods have included all of the above or none of the above in the economic definition of Northern Virginia. Your guess is as good as mine. I’ve seen *Shenandoah County* listed as being part of Northern Virginia before. mmhmm.

  64. It was fun trying to explain to my Honduran-American next-door neighbor in highly broken English how to get one’s drivers license transferred from North Carolina to VA, and how to get to the DMV. Again, I doubt I would have that conversation in Palmyra. :)

    Palmyra? I couldn’t pull that off in English.

  65. largely empty, wide roadways on Route 288 and the Powhite Parkway in Richmond

    Neither of these are “largely empty.” Route 288 is a particularly good example of what happens when local and state leaders meet a need before it’s LONG overdue. 288 is quite busy, and very well-traveled, and has been since the moment it opened a couple years ago. It alleviates traffic on Routes 6, 250, 64, 60, 360, 95, 295, and many other area roads. (And just because it isn’t congested 24/7 like many highways in NoVa doesn’t mean it’s empty. It does its job of moving large amounts of traffic from one place to another quickly.)

    If NoVa residents are upset about it, they should elect leaders who will similarly plan wisely and with an eye toward the future.

  66. Publius,

    We do elect such leaders. At least, recently. We can’t get the funding, though. We’ve had the expansion of I-66 out to Haymarket pushed back and nonfunded several times because we just can’t get the votes from the rest of the state to fund it. We had to half-ass fund it on the third or fourth try to just get construction started to Exit 44, which doesn’t even get traffic to the Gainesville/Warrenton/Culpeper exit which is where all the people are going. With I-66 at four lanes to Haymarket, many of those delays on I-66 that Waldo lamented earlier lessen considerably. There are other examples all over the place, like the expansion of the VRE to Haymarket by way of Sudley and Gainesville that we still haven’t funded but badly need. My abominable Delegate notwithstanding, it’s not like we haven’t tried to get funding for these projects.

    And with my parents, sister and brother-in-law all living in Chesterfield Co and me using 288 reasonably frequently, I call horsepuckey. That highway is empty.

    BP

  67. 288 in Chesterfield County averages around 35,000 vehicles a day (from 29,000 by the Henrico County line to 48,000 between Bridge and Courthouse Rd). Really, that’s nothing compared to what we get in NoVa.

    35,000 a day is about as much as what Route 1 gets up here (which tells you how much of a mess Route 1 is). That’s half the traffic some areas of Route 7 get. Those are arterial roadways that, while dangerous to attempt to cross unless you want to become pedestrian goo, are not highways.

    I-95 in the Mixing Bowl carries 117,000 on the northbound side alone. Add in the southbound side and HOV lanes and the total comes out to 280,000, which is larger than the entire population of Chesterfield County.

    280,000 = 35,000 X 8. Say what you want, 288 is “largely empty” in my book. I call horsepuckey.

    http://www.virginiadot.org/comtravel/ct-TrafficCounts-Juris2005.asp

  68. I.Publius: “I’ll just share one more snippet about a place that royally sucks (and there are many more than 5 reasons as to why): Blacksburg.

    I spent a year there one day.”

    November 27, 2004? Yeah, you and 30,000 other fans.

  69. Oh, guess you didn’t know – everything west of Lexington is an elitist, stuffed-shirt, prick-free zone. But thanks for visiting.

  70. I’ve never lived in Blacksburg, but when my kids were at Virginia Tech, I always enjoyed a trip downtown. I like the little (independently owned) restaurants and bookstore downtown. (Especially Gillie’s restaurant.) Leafy streets, friendly people, the ambiance of a college town, and the gorgeous countryside all around it — I have nothing but good memories of the place.

  71. It’s all a matter of perspective.

    Take Lima, Peru, for example. Compared to it, daily life in any American burb must seem like heaven on earth (and I really don’t like big US cities, with several exceptions)

    Lima has
    14 million residents, but services only for 7 million.
    7 million residents living in illegal hillside shantytowns
    Truly chaotic traffic – I invite you to try an entrance ramp to the Pan American highway, which was our local freeway “equivalent.” No-one will let you in, and the string of traffic seems continuous much of the day.
    Hordes of beggars and homeless street urchins grabbing you asking for money, or blocking your progress at many intersections.
    A mangle of chaotic, unsafe jitney systems rather than any overarching mass transit system, a system on which riders are regularly killed.
    No Fuddruckers (yet, but give it time), but lots of other US chains for the well-to-do, and of course, plenty of dumpsters (you get the hint, here).
    Bottled water for the well-to-do, but unsafe tap water for those who can get access to the city water supply.
    The Rimac river. I wonder what would happen if I threw a match in? (only slightly kidding)

    Don’t get me wrong, I loved Peru, and would go back in a hearbeat, and I really do appreciate the whole burbs/automobile culture here, but I wanted to add a little 3rd World perspective to the burbs argument.

    Well, it’s boiling hot here in Germany tonight and there’s one thing I believe for sure. I believe I’ll go have a beer.

    Y’all have a good one,

    –Jim

  72. I can only assume that you’re talking about The Hook’s article. You seem to forget that you’re one of approximately six people in the nation that actually own an HDTV. Asserting that people are switching from broadcast to satellite is sort of like asserting that internet usage is increasing; it’s a big duh. Look no further than Wikipedia, the DirecTV and Dish Network pages. The industry is exploding for areas (like Central Virginia outside of Charlottesville) where very few broadcast channels are available and cable’s not an option.

    If you did some research you would find the number of people watching OTA has remained constant (or gone up slightly) over the past five years. Perhaps that is due to the increasing poverty rate in places like C-Ville. Duh. I’m so dumb I can’t even use them thar’n computer to looky up dat stuff.

    Six people? Six? It seems as if you have never looked at any data related to television. Perhaps no data related to anything at all. Apparently you are living in the 1980′s and have no connection to the world outside of your farm. Or..you are a born politician of the finest kind…the ones that know nothing about anything, but will take kickbacks without even thinking twice.

    I’m sorry that your e-mail at work isn’t functioning, and you have to ask such questions in unrelated blog discussions. I hope that gets fixed.

    Email not working? Did I say that? As for unrelated topics, I assume that since your posting referred to towns sucking, people couldn’t bring up reasons why C-Ville sucks? Such as no HDTV and the fact that locals don’t even know what it is.

    Keep enjoying your little fantasyland Michael (I hope you can figure out that reference). Now, back to reading about another big shopping complex that will get built next to 64 with big national chains so that I don’t have to go “hang out” with uncle billy to get a single 2×4. Perhaps you will design the new mall since you are an expert in that field.

    C-Ville is So Very VirginiaTM. I guess I will stop thinking once again and go back to being a good C-Ville clone.

    Those five things you listed clearly show that a town with those five things sucks. Using a .22 on bodies is a good thing. I feel so smart now. I’ll remember that forever.

  73. If you did some research you would find the number of people watching OTA has remained constant (or gone up slightly) over the past five years.

    Give me numbers. While I’ve provided data showing an enormous increase in people subscribing to satellite TV, you’ve shown…nothing. You’ve simply made a blind assertion.

    Funny thing. Last week was the least-viewed week in the history of broadcast television. Note that is precisely the opposite of your assertion.

    Six people? Six?

    It’s a lot like like when you ask “does anyone live here during these 6 months of living hell/heat/humidity?” You’ve looked out your window. You know people live here. I could accuse you of being too ignorant to realize that, but that would be foolish of me — you and I both know that you’re exaggerating the numbers of dramatic, comic effect. Precisely the same as I did. But you know that.

    Good luck with that e-mail.

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