Chapter 12
Which Side of the Tracks

What kind of neighborhood is this? Check the coffee.

Starbucks are a real blight on the landscape in a lot of urban neighborhoods. Then there are other neighborhoods where there are no Starbucks, but instead there are Dunkin Donuts every couple blocks. Same density, different vendor of expensive coffee and calories. Some neighborhoods are clearly Starbucks, where walkers and commuters can afford to spend $5 a day for morning coffee (as if they didn't already have some at home). The Dunkin-Donuts-only neighborhoods seem a little more, well, downscale. And there are mixed neighborhoods and border zones where both morning-snack religions are tolerated.

Railroad tracks are a real obstacle when driving. Bridges, overpasses, and underpasses are really expensive to build, and it is often a mile or two between crossings. I used to see this a lot in Silicon Valley, too, where a bridge over major tracks was a real investment. Grade crossings, which are cheap, are not so popular in this area as they were in Texas. You can't get from here to there for a long time. Related to that, railroad tracks seem to be major divisions between towns or parts of towns, where each side develops independently. And the "wrong side of the tracks" term is really applicable in many cases. One side prosperous and the other not. Proximity to other transportation, roads and rivers, or just accident, who knows. Over time, though the prosperous side grows into a Starbucks neighborhood; the other side into a Dunkin Donuts neighborhood. Is this true in other areas?

Note: I have no vested interest in this battle. I do not patronize either establishment. I don't like coffee, and my waistline doesn't like donuts.