The Need for a Walkable Community
Published: Monday, October 1, 2012
Updated: Monday, October 1, 2012 16:10
As a student of landscape architecture, one of my favorite subjects of study is urban design and regional planning. A topic that is extensively covered in environmental design schools of thought today, urban design is facing a more critical point than ever before, with the advent of the green revolution. Though it is not a subject the average lay-person often thinks of, urban design is constantly influencing the way you live your daily life.
I could write volumes on the subject of what I believe good urban design to be, and another stack of volumes on what Fargo is lacking in terms of good urban design. But I would like to key in on one specific point in my column today. See, I haven’t purchased groceries since August. I normally go about two or three weeks between trips, but my life has been so busy lately that I cannot find the time to go and re-stock, so I have been eating a combination of Jimmy John’s, touchdown-special Dominos and boxed macaroni for the last two weeks.
Now, I know what you are all saying. Nathan, you live right by campus. Just make a trip over to the Loaf, or maybe even over to SunMart and snag some food! And to that, I say, “My wallet just can’t afford it!” I once decided to “stick it to the man” and shop for my groceries at Hornbacher’s. I went around the store grabbing all of the things I normally would at Walmart, without really looking at price tags. And when I thought I had grabbed about $30 worth of food, I went to the checkout counter – only to find myself with a bill approaching $60!
And so, I am resigned to shopping at the evil blue empire, at least until I graduate, get a real job and can afford something more fancy than sandwich meat, Campbell’s soup and macaroni. But my time schedule takes issue with that on a consistent basis. From my house, it takes nearly twenty minutes to drive out to the nearest Walmart – the location on 45th St. and 13th Ave. S. And, if I go at “rush hour” – which is often the only chance I have to go – I can count on it taking even longer. Add on another 20-30 minute ride home, coupled with about 30 minutes for shopping, and all of a sudden I’ve spent an hour and a half of my oh-so-precious time on shopping!
Conversely, let us assume that the Loaf-n-Jug was more than a place to get drunk food and gasoline. Let’s assume it was a small, family-owned grocery store, with modest prices. I could simply walk a block and a half – two minute’s journey – spend something closer to 20 minutes shopping (the store will be inherently smaller than a Walmart) and then take another two minutes home. Now I’ve cut that 90-minute chore into a 30-minute chore, and I can use the extra hour to catch up on homework, do some writing, or maybe even do the unthinkable – take a nap!
There is plenty of potential for such a place near campus. Now, I know that NDSU does not have nearly enough parking, but with the IFC lot behind The Turf, and T lot behind Bison Block, there is plenty of space for a bit of urban development that could provide all of the goods and services anyone in the campus community could need – and it wouldn’t require a trip out to West Fargo to get it!
I fully realize that it is a lot to ask for. But in a world where our time is ever more valuable, and world where gasoline will soon be unaffordable for trips to the grocery store, it is time we started thinking about ways to make our communities more walkable, more sustainable and more healthful.
Nathan is a senior majoring in landscape architecture. Follow him on twitter @nwstottler.