In most communities the district where the people dwell are far greater in area than those in which they work and do business. Different families have different desires in the way of homes. Most prefer to live in one-family houses on quiet streets, with grass and trees about them. Many families that can afford these advantages, more often those without children, still prefer to live in apartments, frequently to avoid personal responsibility for upkeep of the dwelling and to have easier access to the city center. Others assume this more cramped manner of living because of lack of houses for rent, the short term of their residence in one city, or other circumstances. The fact remains, too, that many existent dwellings in our cities do not conform to the standards of the single-family homes that most families would prefer.
Wise city planning can do much to make one-family houses available to more families. It encourages a better distribution of centers of employment, and thereby reduces the number of employees who must live near the business center. By providing an adequate, coordinate street system it reduces delays in transit and so makes wider areas for dwellings available within a given time for travel between home and work. Hence, the success with which the automobile enables city populations to spread out depends largely on good city planning.
While some broad avenues and wide streets are necessary to care for through traffic and to give access to a residential district, minor streets with narrow roadways and inexpensive pavements are adequate for the traffic serving the immediate neighborhood. A narrow paved roadway need not lessen the distance between the houses on the two sides of the street. It permits wider grass plots, and thus makes the streets more attractive. At the same time development of the land is cheaper and more families are enabled to own their homes.
Certain appurtenances go with every residential district. Neighborhood stores should be grouped at points convenient to all, but either they should be off the main traffic highways or arrangements should be made through widening the roadways, or providing other parking spaces, so that they will not cause congestion of through traffic. The location of schools is even more important. When the school board can use a good city plan showing the probable character of development and the location of major streets it is better able to choose adequate school sites in new districts. The type of site usually desired will be convenient to the families that are expected to move into the neighborhood, and at the same time be off the main thoroughfares with their noise, confusion, and dangers from heavy traffic. Ample space is needed around schools for playgrounds as well as for light and air. It is therefore good business for the city to anticipate its needs while land values are still low and there is a good choice of large sites not yet built upon.