Freakonomics has a very intersting dialogue around the future of the suburbs.
“If we don’t change the patterns, we’re in for a long and slow and arduous collapse.” Ranieri
"Here’s what I think will happen: First, we are in great danger of mounting a futile campaign to sustain the unsustainable, that is, of defending suburbia at all costs...One symptom of this is that the only subject under discussion about our energy predicament is how can we keep running all our cars by other means. Even the leading environmentalists talk of little else. We don’t get it. The Happy Motoring era is over. No combination of “alt” fuels — solar, wind, nuclear, tar sands, oil-shale, offshore drilling, used French-fry oil — will allow us to keep running the interstate highway system, Wal-Marts, and Walt Disney World...
Spokane area: walkable business districts and neighborhoods (check), relation to productive ag hinterland (check), under-activated small city close to waterway (sort of check). Tri-Cities may be in better shape with their proximity to the Columbia River with already proven transport patterns. He didn't mention the increasing importance of railroads and Spokane has got that one in spades.
This article, "Transport costs could alter world trade" is also worth checking out.
(hat-tip Andrew Sullivan)