Ken Walton/Flickr via Creative Commons license San Francisco

Ken Walton/Flickr via Creative Commons license San Francisco

America is heading back to the ‘burbs. The Brookings Institute, which has been steadily and consistently producing better analyses of urban trends than most urban design-focused institutions I know, notes the following in a recent report about the 2017-18 Census Bureau estimates:

“[F]or the first time this decade, the nation’s three largest metropolitan areas—New York, Los Angeles, and Chicago—all lost population. At the same time, outer suburban, exurban, and non-metropolitan counties nationwide registered renewed growth. Although there are some exceptions in growing parts of the country, the latest data reveal that broad-based population ‘concentration’ toward large urban areas in the early 2010s was an aberration related to the post-recession economy and housing crunch.”

Part of the issue no doubt is that the quality of life in many American cities is declining as infrastructure groans under decades of under-investment and privatization, and as a nest of regulations and economic forces help drive the less affluent into the fringes of downtown cores.

Elvert Barnes via flickr A sewer project in Baltimore

Elvert Barnes via flickr A sewer project in Baltimore

Matt Brown/Flickr via Creative Commons license

Matt Brown/Flickr via Creative Commons license

The problems aren’t confined to first-tier cities. In another report