What’s Next: The 1-5-10 Issue

Metropolis Magazine‘s January issue is called “What’s Next: The 1-5-10 Issue,” and in it they ask a number of experts in the building industry about what they expect to see in their field in one, five, and ten years.  Of particular interest are the Transportation and Urban Planning comments, from John Norquist and Ken Greenburg, respectively.  According to them, this is what we can expect in upcoming years:

  • One Year
    • Transportation: The short term outlook is bleak for transit.  Norquist points out that current policies focus on congestion reduction instead of value, which is wrong because the areas across the country that have the highest value are often the most congested.
    • Urban Planning: The beginning of fixing the suburbs.  In some areas, suburbs are already on the way out, and some suburban communities are rushing to fix their development patterns so that they can support transit and depend less on the car.
  • Five Years
    • Transportation: Norquist sees a shift in this time from massive projects to a focus on smaller projects.  He sees the appreciation over time of wetlands as an indicator of the future for small, dense street networks and projects.  Eventually transportation planners will reach an “Aha!” moment where they will realize that the small things they are destroying for their big projects are actually worth preserving, emulating and restoring.
    • Urban Planning: Cities will need to follow the example of areas at the forefront of technology and update their infrastructure accordingly.  Greenburg cites the Scandinavian Envac waste management systems as one example of new technologies that will be applied to the city, much to the benefit of its citizens.
  • Ten Years
    • Transportation: Transit will be seen as an upper/middle class amenity, rather than a lower class subsidy.  Changing demographics and settlement patterns will encourage a more dense, urban future.
    • Urban Planning: Around this time, the massive post-war projects in America will reach the end of their structural lifespan.  Highways will be replaced by transit.  Congestion pricing will become the norm.  Buildings will be built to return energy to the grid.  The only question is, will developing countries keep the pace and not make the mistakes that we made, or will they follow right in our footsteps and repeat them?

One response to “What’s Next: The 1-5-10 Issue

  1. I think the whole projection that transit will become an upper/middle class amenity instead of a low class subsidy is a bit optimistic and rosy. In certain, influential areas, thankfully I believe this might be true, but these kinds of attitudes have a way of penetrating unequally throughout America and will create difficulty in actually passing funding legislation in the states.

    High-speed rail, the holy grail of mass transit, is even under Obama laughably underfunded, and this post makes clear that the forecast in five years is for more smaller projects rather than larger ones. I think high-speed rail is slated to take a lot longer than five years to actually construct, and is one of those “in the long run” projects (in the long run we’re all dead remember).
    So, what’s needed is big projects fast. Fixing electronic signs (http://newhavenindependent.org/index.php/archives/entry/so_long_solari/) and spending money on bike racks is only go so far in transforming America in midst of crisis.

    We need big time connections between all of our small and midsize cities to one another or we’re going to be leaving too much behind. This is going to take big time capital, which we don’t have or don’t seem willing to do the things necessary to raise.

    So, basically, I think post represents a lot of wishful thinking. May I be wrong.

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