Welcome to Urbanist.co, a new blog focused on the not-so-sexy topics of city planning, urban design, and economic development. City planning may not be an issue that divides public opinion and draws protesters. But it should. The structure of community life is determined by how cities and localities are laid out. Do you need a car to get to the grocery story? What public spaces does your community have? How do you get to work?
Each of these questions have far-reaching implications for business, public health, and sustainability. Yet many local officials have the view, either implicitly or explicitly, that ensuring communities are centrally planned is unnecessary. Conservative economists will often claim that the free market makes the most efficient decisions in terms of allocation. If people want to ride the bus, a company will come along to offer bus service, according to adherents to this theory.
Indeed, the private sector has a large role in determining how towns and cities will look. Yet, as we have seen in cities like Atlanta, where I am from, weak regional planning leads to sprawl, dependence on cars, and a persistent lack of economic mobility. Whereas cities with smart planning can see economic dividends in the future. For example, Washington, D.C. has seen an influx of smart, young millennials thanks, in no small part, to targeted economic development initiatives spearheaded by Mayor Anthony Williams. We should view urban planning as an investment. Unfortunately, many parties are unwilling to accept the need for public investment.
So while urban planning may not be as interesting as some other hot political issues, it’s of the most long-term importance.
Urbanist.co is devoted to making city issues engaging for a general audience, though I hope to reach a young audience in particular, since their life choices will affect urban life for decades.
I will serve as the primary writer and editor of Urbanist.co. As a millennial who has lived in both Atlanta, Ga. and Washington, D.C., I hope I can bring a fresh perspective to the city planning blog-space. Though I am not formally trained in planning, I have covered transportation news for local publications in Atlanta and Washington. I will also incorporate my knowledge as a mathematics and economics major whenever possible.
The ultimate goal of blogs like Urbanist.co, of course, is to promote urbanism: walkable cities, inclusive economic development, and sustainability. As public awareness of these goals increases, I am confident that public officials will take notice and invest in America’s hamlets, towns, cities, and suburbs so that the next generation will be able to live healthier and more fulfilling lives than the previous generation could.
Photo: ep_jhu via Flickr