We spend a good bit of time talking about suburbia and the deleterious effects of housing sprawl here, but job sprawl is another issue worth noting. The building of large job facilities in the suburbs that force a different kind of commute can have real impacts on local communities that are largely negative. This blog post on the building of a large Amazon facility in southern New Jersey is an example:
I spend a lot of time on this blog talking about what might seem like the abstract negative effects of suburban sprawl, but here’s a real world example you can see for yourself. In an NJ.com article titled “Amazon’s mega warehouse gridlocks traffic in N.J. towns”, Cristina Rojas writes that the Amazon fulfillment center warehouse in Robbinsville is causing horrible traffic jams in the area. According to the article, “traffic grinds to a halt for miles when more than 4,000 employees are going in and out during rush hour”, and “school buses get caught up in the traffic, kids who drive to school arrive late and it has become nearly impossible to get in and out of the neighborhood that sits across the street from the Gordon Road entrance.” The mayor is now working with residents and other officials to find a “solution” to the traffic nightmare. Unfortunately for residents of the area, the solution is that this warehouse should never have been built in Robbinsville in the first place.
Job sprawl, the movement of employment from historical city and population centers outward into low density suburbia, has been a factor in the development of America since the 1950s. It’s effects of solidifying impoverishment in New Jersey have been at work since then, with poorer residents historically suffering longer and more difficult commutes while wealthier residents have easier access to jobs. Though much has been made about white collar jobs moving back toward metropolitan cores, jobs most accessible to lower-skilled workers tend to remain located in sprawling, low-density suburbia best accessible to those with a car and poorly served by public transportation. The Amazon fulfillment center is a perfect example of this kind of development.
The author goes on to discuss how much more valuable this facility would be if built in one of New Jersey’s many struggling urban areas and how this sort of job site pushes a lot of costs onto taxpayers as cities struggle to build some kind of public transit system to deal with the traffic. It’s a real problem that we see across the nation.