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Tuesday, October 30, 2007


The Unnoticed Link Between Trick-R-Treating and Urban Sprawl

This blog posting is going to discuss how urban sprawl and trick-r-treating are related. Based on the trick-r-treater’s dilemma, “where to go trick-r-treating to maximize candy collection while minimizing walking distance”. This is a question that I’m sure we can all remember asking our selves or our friends before heading out on that spooky night. When we were thinking that as kids, we were limited to where our parents would take us and once we were old enough to drive, we were too old to trick-r-treat. But were would have been the ideal place, the inner city, the suburbs or a “smart growth” community?

Let’s start with the inner city. This is where walking distance will be minimized. In the inner city, most of the residents are located in tall apartment buildings. This presents a situation with a high door count to square mile. The door count to square mile ratio should mean more treats but another equation also needs to be taken into account. Answers to doors knocked, this ratio, from personal experience, seems to be exceptionally low in apartments. So while the door count to square mile is high, the answers to doors knocked is low, resulting in an ineffective night of trick-r-treating.

So if the inner city isn’t the best place to go, how bout the suburbs? The suburbs seem to be the opposite of the inner city, a low door count to square mile, but a high answers to doors knocked. The reason for the difference in the door count to square mile ratio is simple, suburbs have a tendency to be a sprawling community, as people require more space for the kids to play in the yard while having a bigger driveway and garage to park their cars, they tend to move farther away from each other. The higher answers to doors knocked ratio is a little harder to pin down, while they do need a little more research to confirm, I will offer my personal experience. Most of the inhabitants of the inner city are D.I.N.K.s (Dual Income No Kids) and poor families. The first usually don’t have the time or desire to devote to decorating and passing out candy while the former usually don’t have discretionary income required for the same activities. Out in the suburbs though, there are a greater number of young families that enjoy the experience of Halloween and taking their kids out on that night. So they decorate their oversized front yard and one parent stays home to pass out candy to all the neighbors while the other goes out with the kids to keep them safe and make sure they don’t get lost. All of these factors will lead to more walking but will also return more candy.

So is there a place where we can find the ultimate mix? It could be in a “Smart Growth” community. While these communities focus on everything being closer and easier to walk to, they also try to attract young families. The effect of this returns the high answers to doors knocked ratio that we see in the suburbs while only slightly increasing the doors to square mile ratio seen in the inner city, giving us the best of both worlds.

The problem with this is there is not an abundance of “Smart Growth” communities to trick-r-treat in. This could be leading to families with kids from the inner city traveling out to the suburbs to go trick-r-treating and over time we may actually be seeing people moving out to the suburbs due to the lack of trick-r-treating opportunities found in the inner cities. The solution to this “problem” could be to require inner city citizens to participate in the Halloween tradition until there are enough “Smart Growth” communities… but I would suggest we just let the economy take its course without more regulations.

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