How do we fix America’s cities?

Ask anyone, urban planner or not, and they can quickly tell you what’s wrong with America’s cities: too much traffic, not enough housing choice, sub-standard transit systems, not enough open space, almost complete lack of walkability, and the list goes on. How do we even begin to solve these problems? They are complex, and the answers don’t come easy, or cheaply.

In a new article from Momentum magazine, Alex Steffen addresses how our cities can be reshaped to meet 21st century human needs.  Many of Steffen’s ideas closely parallel the great work being done by a consortium of municipalities and planners across the Wasatch Front with the Wasatch Choice 2040 initiative: creating a system of dense urban centers that can support transit, improve services for the entire city, and preserve undeveloped lands from sprawl.

His description of the current planning in Melbourne, Australia closely aligns with many of the Wasatch Choice 2040 base concepts:

“The city’s growing quickly, needs to add a million people over the next decade or two, but they don’t want that to be sprawl. So they took a digital map of the city and blocked off everything that’s currently single family residences, everything that’s a historical building, everything that’s green space, working industrial land, and other things people are vociferous about valuing. That left a fairly small percentage of land. But they showed that if they concentrated density in those corridors, they could add a million people without expanding the city at all, and it would add all these benefits, like better public transit and such. You can dramatically increase the density of places without taking away things people want—and actually adding things they want but couldn’t afford today—because the average suburb isn’t dense enough to financially support a tram or the like. But if you add a dense core that can support that, suddenly even the people around it, in their single-family homes, get the benefit, too.”

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