Study shows that Traditional Neighborhood designs promote quality neighborhoods

A recent article in New Urban News points to  A study of Orenco Station, a large traditional neighborhood development in Hillsboro, Oregon, backs claims that new urban design fosters physical activity and adds to the richness of community life. The article talks about how studies are now being done that support the claim that traditional neighborhood design actually does work to reduce vehicle miles traveled, promotes neighborhood interaction, and encourages the use of mass transit over typical suburban development. Of course, those of us that support traditional neighborhood design have long supported this claim. Many opponents of traditional neighborhood design have downplayed these claims, saying they are unfounded. Now that studies are being done that support this claim, we will have more ammunition in our pockets. An interesting fact of this study, is that it is not only based on current data (2007), it compares that to similar questions asked in 2002, and tracks the trends. A few excerpts from the article:

• Fifty-eight percent of those surveyed report that people are friendlier in Orenco Station than in the places where they previously lived. In the Beaverton suburb, only 47 percent said people are friendlier there, and 45 percent and 42 percent said this about the two Portland neighborhoods.

• Fifty-nine percent of Orenco Station residents engage in group activities, compared to only 30 percent in the Beaverton suburb and 31 percent and 30 percent in the two Portland neighborhoods. The quality of group activities in Orenco Station appears to be higher than the other neighborhoods. Orenco Station residents most commonly cite group dinners, book clubs, and other informal neighborhood activities. The only common group activities in the other neighborhoods were neighborhood watch and homeowners association meetings. The study notes that in Orenco Station residents meet primarily for social reasons, while in the other neighborhoods they meet mostly to address safety and property issues.

• Social activity rose substantially in Orenco Station in the 5-year period between the two surveys. In 2007, 59 percent reported participating in group activities, up from 40 percent in 2002. In 2007, 50 percent reported interacting with their neighbors in new ways — up from 8 percent in 2002.

• Walking also rose substantially from 2002 to 2007 in Orenco Station, according to the study. In 2002, only 11 percent of Orenco Station residents reported walking to a local store five or more times a week. Part of this can probably be attributed to the completion of the town center.

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