How to get there?

  • Temporary tests can provide a glimpse
  • Build trains because “if you build it they will come”
  • Rail essential
  • Retrofit existing structures where possible
  • But rebuilding cities takes too long!

Temporary tests can provide a glimpse

Peak oil doomers I knew said big business would never let their cities create more bike lanes, Bus Rapid Transits or start the journey of retrofitting city centres around moving pedestrians, not traffic. But New Yorkers painted their roads and added a little temporary street furniture to create large pedestrian islands for a 6 month trial. They tested it, and gathered data.

  • They found traffic flow actually increased a little.
  • Local business increased 150% in some cases.
  • Pedestrian and cyclist safety increased dramatically as more people took to cycling into town, and hanging out on the new street furniture when they got there. 
  • People felt safer and had a better time.
  • Giving up *as much* car use doesn’t have to be a chore. Just paint over any spare road surfaces, add street furniture, make sure the local businesses are briefed on increase customer flow, and stand back and watch!
  • Just these small changes merely hinting at the New Urban (Gilmore Girls) town square were good for people, business, and safety.
  • The result? New York is making those changes permanent!
  • The idea is spreading!
  • This TED talk outlines the 2007 to 2013 developments in Times Square and other American New Urban experiments. These are baby steps, but in the right direction, and remind people of what they have lost.  
  • But isn’t it good to see these baby steps growing larger and more confident?

Video works: 14 minutes


Build trains because “if you build it they will come”

As I showed on my Rail page, if you build rail, New Urbanism can grow around it or even up in the air above a new subway station. The government could fund it and recover costs through the increased productivity of the development over time, or could even ask the private New Urban developers to pay half the rail for the land development rights!

Rail essential

Trains or trams are essential. As the Australian Council for New Urbanism says in their summary paper (11 pages: 2006):-

‘Movement Economy’ is a term ESD has coined to describe the relationship between an urban centre and the combination of its location within its catchment, and how well the street network ‘feeds’ that centre. A beneficial Movement Economy will optimise the position of its centre between being central to its walkable catchment, and locating the centre to maximise ‘capture’ of custom flowing through it daily, en route to and from a larger destination such as a city centre. Structure planning that isolates community or neighbourhood centres away from the Movement Economy will deny such centres of crucial commerce (as well as public transport), which should also bring people to such centres.

Any informed observer of sprawl and/or post-war English new towns will recognise this systemic planning error, where neighbourhood centres were systematically isolated from the Movement Economy. Those centres continue to struggle because their community facilities alone cannot attract enough custom or activity. Community and Commerce are compatible and interdependent, as they always have been. Urban structuring can and should combine the two, to their mutual benefit.

This ABC Radio mp3 further discusses how to translate a suburban city into a more urban, dense and diverse cityscape. It features Peter Newman.

New Urbanists can design a city transport network and build around that. A successful town cores must be places of both commerce and transport. Trains provide the lifeblood of customers past their businesses. Successful town cores like this give the local suburbs something to plug into. If the population of those suburbs ever declines, the cheaper and more convenient lifestyle of the New Urban core can attract the population into the centre, and the outer districts can gradually be sold back to local farming co-ops or parks or forestry.

Retrofit existing structures where possible

In the TED talk below, Ellen Dunham-Jones shows how New Urbanism can happen in small stages.

It can grow in pockets without bulldozing the whole suburb first. New Urbanism is incredibly dense and can grow in small unused areas. Think of the many American shopping malls that bankrupted in the GFC. These places were previously zoned for one purpose and one purpose only: as vast temples to consumerism. But with a little imagination they can be rezoned (and retrofitted) to include  apartments, workshops, shops, a library; mixing up work, rest and play.

As the Australian Council for New Urbanism says (ANCU PDF again):-

The range of projects includes urban centre revitalisations, brownfield redevelopments, new mixed use town centres, CBD retrofits, public and private sector greenfield urban extensions, growth codes and a couple of new towns.

But rebuilding cities takes too long!

Then please see my page Fast Homes


Other New Urban pages:-

Benefits of New Urbanism

More details on New Urbanism, further defining the neighbourhood, town, city, and showing how driving to the town square ruins it, the historical legacy of racist highway development, and how developers want to ruin public spaces.

The Eco-city, bunched in more and covered in trees and bushes.

The Sky-City, 17,000 people in one building!

The Eco-Village: the opposite of the above!

Village towns: incorporating agriculture

Which style for Sydney?

Rail: is so much better than cars

How to get there, given we’ve already spend so much on suburbia?

Objections to New Urbanism:

  1. That’s so typical of Nazi Greenie Control Freaks telling us how to live!
  2. It’s just lefty propaganda — suburbia is the American way
  3. Cities are ugly!
  4. What do we do with the vast suburban areas we’ve already built?
  5. How do we pay for all this?

Energy efficient homes

Tall timbers: modern CLT lets us build skyscrapers out of wood!

Fast homes: Don’t eco-apartments take a year or so to build, and cities take decades?

  • Assembly line homes
  • Cities transformed in 20 years