Blog: George Lenko

Look in the dictionary under community involvement and you're likely to see George Lenko's face. A second term city commissioner in Pleasant Ridge, he spearheaded the NextCruise event during Dream Cruise and has a passion for regional development and transit issues --topics he will be writing about in this week's Guest Blog.

Post No 2: Walkable Communities

You know from my prior post that I like cars and I love how the automotive industry shaped our region. Yet, my wife and I moved to Pleasant Ridge 25 years ago because of the bus coverage, the feel of the neighborhoods, and the proximity to most anywhere we needed to go. These characteristics have a new relevance now, given the price of fuel and concerns about the environment, but they are common to many of the older communities around Detroit. What before was considered densely developed, is considered walkable now. 

I worked many years downtown and, in my early adult years (broke, no kids) often took the bus. Of course, as life got busier and my kids entered the picture, driving became a necessity. Nonetheless, it’s been convenient to have four supermarkets, a couple dozen restaurants, and shops & galleries within a mile or two of home. Plus, the restaurants, shops, and galleries make a nice walk whenever we’re in the mood. That might be why Forbes magazine recently named the Woodward Corridor in the Top 10 of America’s Most Fuel Efficient Neighborhoods.     

Earlier this year, I took "walkability" one step further (pun intended). I often travel to Chicago, mostly by plane and sometimes by car. This time, I took Amtrak from Royal Oak. I dragged my roller bag behind me as I walked to the station and grabbed a sandwich at Pronto for the train ride. During the trip, I was fortunate to sit next to a guy from The Blackberry Store who lent me a cord and showed me how to log onto my work computer wirelessly during the trip. I was so inspired with the possibility of going entirely car-less that I walked from Union Station to my hotel on Michigan Ave. So, I made it to Chicago in business class for $38 and a little shoe leather…That’s just about what cab fare from O’Hare costs!     

One final thought about living in an inner suburb. One of the recent bloggers here raised the question whether one can own an SUV and still be "green". I've consistently owned SUVs (I now own a big yet fuel-efficient Saturn Outlook) and have marveled at some people’s strong opinions against SUVs. I simply could not renovate my historic homes without an SUV…After all, "the greenest house is one that is already built." Plus, even in a behemoth, a 10 mile commute will always use less fuel than a 40 mile commute.

As energy prices increase and as people seek more physical activity, I believe the inner suburbs will become more desirable in the future.