The changing role of urbanization in the 21st century is being driven by the changing ability of the population to thrive in settings that are neither rural nor urban. The growth of suburban agglomerations where industry, commerce, cultural and other features that were traditionally confined to cities, has been almost exponential.
Improvements in transportation, communication, and other infrastructures have allowed individuals and industries to relocate to areas that were once considered too isolated or distant from the urban centers to operate successfully. Some of the expansion and independence was based on the high costs of living and conducting business operations in built up areas and in cities. Some of the expansion and independence was based on a desire for easier living in less congested areas.
Some of the expansion into more distant and isolated areas comes from the complex combinations of transportation improvements, communication advancements, and developments in urban planning and the politics of economy that made it possible to create massive new communities and semi urban centers in record time. Even improvements in construction materials and building technology made it more possible to slap up major production, housing, infrastructure and commercial areas within a few years.
Since the development of highway structures, methods of transferring large amounts of material from seaport to trains and trucks, and in air transport of material and goods, the cities are no longer the sole source of material. While the cities remain the main hubs of transportation, commerce and culture, they no longer have to be the place to go in order to send or receive the goods that are necessary for successful living, or enterprise.
As a result, cities have evolved into much more expensive places to live, combined with areas so blighted that no one wants to live there. Cities are places that are rich in jobs, both high paying and low. Cities have rich opportunities for those in the service sectors, and in governmental enterprises.
Cities are places where the largest segment of their population are transient, or commuter populations. The population bulges during the course of a business day, then recedes after business hours. This is because many cities have become far too expensive for the lower paid, service personnel and blue collar workers to live there. The cities bring in transient populations in the form of tourists, those who are visiting for business, advanced medical, educational, shopping, cultural or other regional affairs that are still concentrated in the cities.
As a result, cities will be forever going through areas of spectacular development, spectacular blight, and spectacular transition, but they will not be going away.