Urban Planning Blog

I write professionally as well, contact me if you want more information.

You can see my blog on this link: https://planningtank.com/author/thejas

Some examples are below – Note they were first published on Planning Tank

Good Public Transportation – A necessity for sustainable settlements

Public transport in some cities is not seen positively especially in car-dominated countries. Although most cities in the world are still dependent on cars and automobiles, there are a few cities such as London and New York where public transport is also taken by the well-off instead of private vehicles. Various developing countries like India are investing a lot in metros in the past decade and most metropolitan cities are building better public transport especially through the Mass Rapid Transit System (MRTS). But still, in most of the places, public transport is not used widely as the middle-class population mostly travel by automobiles and cars. Although car-pooling through Uber and similar apps is emerging, they are not widely used as yet and people prefer to have their own vehicle.

Related: Increased use of Smart phone in India for Cab BookingExamples of Car Free Cities (Pedestrian cities)

Underground Metro

Cities which overcame the obsession with private vehicles

Throughout history having one’s own vehicle has been more prestigious in cities than riding by bus or train. It is seen as a sign of wealth and this is not necessarily a good mindset and also not very sustainable for our cities. As the mayor of Bogota, Enrique Penalosa, in the book, Happy Cities states “a developed country is not a place where the poor have cars, it’s where the rich ride public transport.” This quote rings true to today’s society and the ongoing change in people’s mindset to use more public transport. Most people don’t use public transport as it is poorly managed and not seen as been effective enough as private transport.

This should be a message for politicians and people in town planning to improve the quality of public transport in their cities because unless it comes down from the root level, the mindset of people will not change. Penalosa in Bogota is an example of a politician who has drastically changed the city of Bogota to become more sustainable and healthy by providing people with more public transport via an excellent bus system and by promoting people to use more bicycles and other sustainable methods of transport including walking in public spaces. Using public transportation is shown to be more effective in research because people save more money and it can even create a community and communication with strangers when you see people regularly traveling with you.

Even within Asia, many countries have prospered by improving public transportation and allowing people to travel effectively. Some of these cities are Singapore and Tokyo, which are cities among the best public transport and are ranked as high as cities in the USA and UK which also use public transport. Although Singapore and Tokyo are one of the wealthiest cities in Asia, other countries in the continent can learn a lot from these cities. Concepts such as bribe, delays, and cleanliness while traveling on a bus is also strictly followed in Singapore and Tokyo. Tokyo, for instance, and nearly all other cities in Japan are known for their cleanliness in bus and trains which also have very good connectivity to most of the suburbs in the city. People can also complain about the public transport system if they are not running smoothly or if there is something wrong with the transport system.

Delhi Metro

However, a country does not have to be wealthy in order to initiate good public transport systems. The Delhi metro and the emerging Bangalore metro also follow strict rules and are providing good services. Even some public transportation in China especially Beijing is known to be very good. So emerging economies also have public transport as one of their main goals, but the main challenge in car-dependent societies is changing the mindset of people to use public transportation. The population in China and India will be one of the main challenges in order to provide the same facilities for all the people in the country. For instance, one of the main reasons people don’t use public transportation, particularly for busses, in Bangalore is because it is crowded, dirty and unreliable. This is because there are just too many people to manage and provide for. The government needs to think of such issues seriously to manage public transport facilities. The fact that there is more debate on public transportation in India will help change people’s mindset and maybe make the government provide better transportation facilities for people.

Related: Facts about the Delhi Metro!

Therefore, public transportation is an important issue around the world. Whether you live in a developed or developing country, most cities in the world are car dependent. The mindset of status and wealth attached to cars should reduce so that people see the advantage of public transportation and the positive impacts it can have on our society. There are many more examples than the ones I’ve given in this article of places where public transport is utilized but there are more where car-dependency is a serious issue. In order to create a sustainable future, we need to see the positive benefits of public transport and implement it in our cities.

 

Tips before starting a Planning degree

Choosing to do a City Planning degree or Master’s degree can have many benefits. But it can also be a challenging field to be in, especially in developing countries. Most of the planning degrees lead to government jobs where the salary is not very high or promising for the long term. In developed countries, the planning structure is more organized and in demand compared to underdeveloped & developing nations. That said, many countries are picking up on city planning, and there are many movements and new organizations coming up.

City Planning Degree

There is more demand for GIS, design and technological aspects of planning rather than the core planning principles or human aspects of the planning degree. There is also more demand for research and writing in planning more than the workforce but that takes a very long process and many years of hard work to become an academic in planning. Most of the times, you will not be the sole decision-maker, and the government has the most power in city planning. Even though planning is trying to focus on community-based aspects with people taking control of their cities, that is sadly not the truth in many of the cases. It’s a challenging area to get a job in, and if you want to make money or have other passions other than making a difference for your country, then it is not the best path to pursue.

Here are some things you should think about before you decide to apply for a Planning degree:

Related: Urban Planning – Profession

  1. Think about what you really want: Think about what aspects of planning or civics you like and whether it is really necessary to pursue a planning degree for your aspirations and future. Think about the pros and cons of choosing a planning degree whether in India or abroad. For instance: is it well paid, will you gain the skills you are looking for and will it benefit your goals in the future.        
  2. Do you want to create change: Do you want to have an impact on your city or country? If so, planning would be an excellent field for that. Creating change is not easy and also comes with lots of ups and downs. It is very challenging especially when a specific niche of people runs a country, most of them without a planning degree. So think through this carefully and how you can make an impact through your planning degree
  3. Do you have an interest in learning about city planning: It all comes down to interest and motivation to study, whatever field you choose. So, if you are interested in town planning, let the interest guide you even if you don’t make a lot of money, you’ll still enjoy the job because you are interested in the subject. Many times, interest leads to academia jobs because once you’re very interested in a topic, you become very good at a subject and choose a specialization. Many people study for interest these days without thinking too much about the future, if that is you, that is fine as well, but it is important to think about how you will make your mark.
  4. What part of planning do you want to specialize: Think about what aspect of city planning you like, such as transportation or housing and so forth. Planning can be linked to most aspects of daily life because most of us have experienced city life. You can focus on the part you like so that you can try to find a job in that area. For instance, there are lots of ways to improve housing and infrastructure of our cities, and you can work with civil engineers to make a difference to our cities if you like transport and housing.
  5. Talk to people practicing planning: Talk to others in the field and other planners who have done the degree and have jobs now, so that you will understand how it really is and whether that’s what you want to do. Many times you can see how people work in the field to decide if you want to live the same life as them or find a similar job. If you cannot find anyone in the planning profession, then talk to your course coordinators or university to find out if they can give you an idea of the workforce. It all comes down to practice and finding the right job more than the course itself.

Planned City

The above are a  few tips to know how to set foot into the world of planning. There are, of course, many other ways to do it. But like any field, there are many options and job opportunities in planning, and it depends on what you want out of life. Urban Planning can be a very promising profession for many people, and many people around the world are making a big difference to our cities and contributing to a bigger change such as the recent walkability movements which are growing all over the world. You will need to specify your interests and think of a niche you want to follow. It also depends on where you are in the world and how that country looks at planning. Various countries are still developing their infrastructure, but many interesting movements are emerging with lots of changes taking place in our cities. So there is still a lot of potentials. So, good luck and I hope your planning degree is promising, if not at least enjoyable!

Also Read: Limitations of Planning

How to explore public spaces?

One of the main joys of exploring a city is to go to its public spaces be it parks, botanical gardens or just city streets and boulevards, you can get a sense of relief from exploring a new city and being a part of the public realm. If you want to be interested in a city’s public spaces, then you won’t get much from reading about it but you have to go out and explore it for yourself for you to get a personal feeling of the space and enjoy the public life. One of the main places I see in India where people gather are malls and around big buildings and parks which have a large number of public access and regular visits. This article will give you some tips on how to explore public spaces:

Exploring Spaces

Go out and enjoy the weather: Going out doesn’t mean just staying there for 5 mins, it means to make an outing in the public space. You can go with friends or family or meet new people on the way. You need to spend at least half an hour to one hour in the public space to really enjoy it. If you go to a beach or a park, you are going there for a reason and you will stay there for a long time. You need to get a feel for space and understand the ambiance and culture of the space. You also need to decide if space resonates with you and gives you a good feeling about being there. This mostly includes feeling safe and friendly in the public space.

Analyse the space: You need to see if space is a good space and whether you like being there. If you don’t then you should not go there or you need to take action to improve the space to make it better. Many regenerated public spaces are done this way. There has been lots of research on good public spaces and although there are very few in India, there are some good ones which will help you feel safe and happy in the public space. Look around you, see what kind of people are there and see what amenities the public spaces provide such as playgrounds or cafes or rose gardens that make it more appealing than a general public space

Meeting new people

Use your senses to make your experience better: Use your senses such as touch, feel, smell and taste when you go to a public space. For instance, walking around the space or using a public space to do your daily walk will help you become more acquainted with space. Try talking with people or smiling at people you meet regularly and try to build new relationships as you encounter new people in the public space. There are many opportunities waiting for you if you use your senses!

Observe and use the amenities provided: Usually, public spaces such as botanical gardens provide many facilities that you can make use of. This will help you become more familiar with the public space and help you understand the surroundings and people who use the space. If there are playgrounds, for instance, take your child to play there and she/he will make new friends to play within the public space. Such encounters become meaningful and after some time gives a sense of place where people will gain meanings from being surrounded by other people in the public space.

The above are just a few tips for making the most of your city’s public spaces. What your city has to offer is very important and public life gives more meaning and a better sense of relationship when you visit regularly. There are also many advantages of going regularly as you can relax in the space and get away from the hustle and bustle of the busy city life and traffic. Taking people you know or going regularly with friends and family will also help you become used to the public space.

Understanding Urban Resilience | Theories & Example

Introduction – Resilience in Cities 

Urban resilience is a method for cities to recover from hardships to their normal state. Cities have different ways of dealing with resilience and different cities face hardships in different ways. Recently, the most widely recognised ways of resilience are from Climate Change, Natural Disasters, and Terrorism. This is because all of these three threats to cities can have devastating effects to people living in the cities and it usually takes many years or decades to recover from these hardships to the built environment. Resilience connects people to their built environment, since people inhibit buildings and if the buildings are affected by disasters, then it inevitably affects people living inside the buildings. Many cities, rich and poor, have faced adversity such as New York’s 911 event which is one of the most devastating terrorist attacks to date. Many cities around the world including cities in India have experienced high levels of floods during monsoon season and extreme levels of heat and cold during summer and winter and even earthquakes in cities like Pune have affected India’s built environment. This is an example of the ways in which climate change and natural disasters affect cities.

Urban Resilience - Disaster

Related theories dealing with Urban Resilience

Resilience theory has recently tried to make people adapt to the disasters in their cities so that they don’t depend on their government for resources. Many private firms, such as Rockefeller Foundation, have also invested in building urban resilience in many cities worldwide. Monetary needs should be distributed in ways that ensure adaptability in the society. There have been different methods in which communities have endured floods and natural hazards. Most common method is to evacuate to a safer zone and wait till the city has recovered from the hazard. Although this is useful in an immediate state, relocating to a new place and losing personal belongings can have enormous effects on families and the society. There are many theories including engineering theory for resilience which have indicated different methods of recovery.

When it comes to community resilience, Birkland and Waterman (2009) propose three features of community resilience which are damage prevention, speedy recovery, and preservation of community functionality, indicating that when the community is more adaptable and capable of tolerating stress, the recovery of the community and the city will be faster. Urban (city) and community resilience are very related and interdependent because when the facilities in the cities are under threat, the community is more likely to be affected by it.

Practical examples of cities dealing with disaster

For instance, when Christchurch in New Zealand was affected by earthquakes in 2011, many people died in the prominent zones as the city was not planned for the disaster. However, many people left the city and evacuated due to the enormous damage done to the city. One way the city is coping with the recovery is by building more earthquake-prone architecture and buildings that sustain future disasters. Most apartments and houses in Christchurch are rebuilt and earthquake proof to bring more people into the city. The community and the council are bringing in many recovery strategies including public art as a way to bring the community together and to create a sense of pride in the city dwellers of Christchurch city. This example is a powerful way to bring back people into the city and create a cohesion among people for the loss and damage that has been previously. However, Tokyo in Japan, because of the earthquake-prone zone, has built sustainable architecture and houses to prevent damage from earthquakes.

Urban Resilience - Flood

There are many cities around the world, including New York City, which has been affected by floods. Many cities in India experience floods especially during the monsoon seasons. Evacuation techniques are not still enforced to the maximum degree in India compared to the developed countries. Assam floods in 2016 is an example of a natural disaster in India. This could be because of the role of climate change because of rising sea levels. Many people were affected by the floods in Assam and had to evacuate to other cities. In most of the cases, there is not much community resilience enforced, although people are ensured safety by the government. Fleeing the city has many serious consequences such as losing one’s job, relocation money and monetary need which is not always sufficient or available. There needs to be better strategies implemented by the Government to prevent floods by building resilient infrastructure for the cities, especially during monsoon seasons. Rockefeller Foundation has implemented the 100 resilient cities mission, which seeks to help the most disaster-affected cities in the world to become more resilient through social and economic means. Such initiatives are very useful in building more accessible infrastructure in cities and ensuring that there are enough funds and resources for recovery and providing resilience.

Conclusion

Therefore, urban resilience ensures that society can recover from unforeseen events and natural disasters. There are many ways to ensure that the community is provided the facilities in the cities to adopt resilience to these events. Having a variety of monetary means and coping mechanisms would be useful for the community. Also, educating the people about the disaster also creates a sense of resilience as they would have increased knowledge about how to cope with the stressful situation. Many communities around the world have grown in resilience and have adopted a variety of coping mechanisms. The more resilient the people in the city are to threat in the city, the better it is likely to invest in the rebuilding of the city and the community.

5 Must Read Books on Public Spaces

This article will highlight the main books and readings related to public spaces. There are many books that can be chosen on urbanism themes but these books focus particularly on how to design and create better public spaces for all. Although they mostly focus on the western cities, there is a lot that the Global South can learn from them as well. The books will be beneficial to anyone who wants to create better neighbourhood and lifestyles for city planning and city living.

Death and Life of American Cities by Jane Jacobs 

Jane Jacob’s famous book revolutionized city planning, particularly in getting more pedestrianized spaces in New York City. This book is her first and most popular book relating to public spaces. She speaks about sidewalks and the need to stop building bridges and highways which was what Robert Moses wanted to do. Her fight against Moses is understood through this book, and her views about cities being places for people rather than cars was revolutionary. Many movements and organisations started through the inspiration of this book, for instance, the Placemaking movement. There are many more recent books that specifically concentrate on public spaces but this book was a pioneer in initiating the conversation in public spaces.

Related: Jane Jacob’s vision for cities

The Social Life of Small Urban Spaces by William H. Whyte

This book which has been made into a film, shows the details of people’s behaviours in public spaces. For anyone interested in human geography or psychology this book is a must read because it is one of the first of its kind to detail how humans act in the public realm. Previously, it wasn’t thought of as being important to observe people in public, but the ways in which people behave in public is radically different to private spheres. Being in a public space also allows for conversations, meeting new people and getting a feel for the sense of place. The social life of people in public spaces is detailed and explained intricately so that people understand the importance of public spaces.

Happy City: Transforming Our Lives Through Urban Design by Charles Montgomery

In this book, Montgomery gives an overview of what makes a happy city and how public spaces can contribute towards making a city happier. He gives personal experiences with the Bogota mayor Enrique Peñalosa Londoño and how he has transformed the city which was one of the poorest and worn torn city in the world. Montgomery argues if Penalosa could transform Bogota through his vision for public spaces, then surely, other countries who are rich and poor can aspire to do the same. Bogata is known as one of the happiest places to be and has the best public transport after Penalosa became its mayor. There is a lot to learn from this book, and it is especially important for people in municipal authority to learn what is important in cities and how to make a more humanised city for people.

Related: Public Sculptures can make an Impact on People

Life Between Buildings by Jan Gehl

Jan Gehl is one of the most well-known influencers in architecture and planning today. His experiments in Copenhagen has proven that public spaces can be beneficial for humans. His observations indicate that public spaces that provide good amenities such as good seating, walking facilities, public art and eateries such as cafes and restaurant can really improve people’s health and lifestyle. He has also advocated for cycling and walking in cities as he thinks it leads to better health than depending on the car. Gehl has written other books as well but this book is one of his first ones that give a lot of detail on how people use public spaces and what makes a good public space. It is a good book for urban design students as well as planners to understand the future of urbanism and how to cater to people’s needs in public spaces.

Rethinking Urban Parks by Setha M. Low

This book provides a good overview of urban parks and how they are used. The importance of parks is underrepresented in cities, but most of the big metropolitan cities have a major park or a landscape that people generally use with lots of greeneries. Parks can help people’s wellbeing including alter moods and help psychological distress. It is said that when people visit parks or gardens often, they feel more in tune with nature and this helps them think more clearly. Although this book focusses on New York City which provides ample parks, other car-reliant cities are not as lucky as the big apple. However, this book sets a good example for city mayors around the world to implement more parks and provide more amenities for their residents through public spaces.

5 Must Read Books on Public Spaces

Conclusion

The above five books are the leading books in public spaces, mostly focusing on the western world. Countries like India can learn from these books to know how to implement more public spaces in their cities. Change usually occurs more systematically in the developed world, but if the governing bodies around the world read these books and took it in their hands to create change for our cities and people’s wellbeing in the cities, then these books would have served their purpose.

Introduction – A brief history

With the industrialization of cities, there was the advent of automobiles and the increase in car-use. Although cars are abundantly used around the world both in the Global North and Global South, there are increasing movements being formed against car-use and increasing walkability in cities. These movements do not just focus on walkability, they promote bicycle use in cities and the use of public transport. There are many car-free zones and pedestrianized public spaces being formed in cities to increase people’s physical activity and to decrease automobile use. New Urbanism is one such movement which promotes walkable neighbourhoods, including a range of housing solutions to provide a car-free environment. They support the construction of more open spaces, safe streets and pedestrianisation as a way to combat suburban sprawl.

New Urbanism - Public Participation

Congress for New Urbanism

Congress for New Urbanism is the main body that organises the New Urbanism movement. Andres Dunay and Elizabeth Plater – Zyberk, who are a couple, are the two main founders of The Congress for New Urbanism. The movement promotes walkablity, mixed-use neighbourhood, sustainable communities and healthier living conditions.  The main principles of New Urbanism include:

  • “Livable streets arranged in compact, walkable blocks.
  • A range of housing choices to serve people of diverse ages and income levels.
  • Schools, stores and other nearby destinations reachable by walking, bicycling or transit service.
  • An affirming, human-scaled public realm where appropriately designed buildings define and enliven streets and other public spaces”

The practice of New Urbanism has spread across the world since its inception in 1993. It was a way to suggest alternatives to sprawling communities. This is because the majority of the middle class in America live in the sprawl and peripheries of cities rather than being centrally located. Because their houses area located far away from the central city, there is a need to be reliant on cars for transport because public transport is not reliable and convenient for people, especially when they need to travel often for work and other shopping purposes. New Urbanism criticizes the modernist practices of architecture and planning that arose in America after WWII. They have transformed urban design principles and have changed many cities in America into healthier and more accessible cities.

Read about: Jane Jacob’s vision for cities

Examples of New Urbanism

Seaside Florida

A well known example of New Urbanism is Seaside Florida. This coastal town’s main purpose was to improve the well being and community among the neighbourhood.  Increasing public spaces to create communal bond was thought to be an important component of Seaside Florida. Seaside’s layout included the principle of ‘five minute walk’ to encourage quarter mile walking on foot, as houses were built alongside public spaces to create more walkability among the community. Today, however, Seaside Florida has become a very expensive million dollar community rather than an affordable place for city residents to live as it was originally planned for. Plater-Zyberk suggests that the town can be used as an example for further research in creating high density and mixed use cities.

New Urbanism

Cornell, Markham

Cornell in Markham is another example of New Urbanism principles that were redeveloped by the Markham City Councillors in coordination with the firm Duany Plater-Zyberk. The plan had around 27,000 people accommodated in the houses including many schools and community centers with shopping accessibility and supermarkets. It also had a large retail space, that would have been useful for people living in walkable distance to the stores. People could walk to the stores and there was accessible public transport from all neighbourhoods to the schools, jobs and shopping needs of people. Cornell included a community park, a hospital, a library and management facilities which were all located within walkable distance.

There are many other examples of cities that have adopted the New Urbanism design, including a minimum of 20 to 30 communities worldwide, in Canada, Europe and other western countries. India is not in the list for developing New Urbanism as there needs to be a lot of improvement in India’s streets and public spaces before adopting New Urbanism principles. As western countries already provide most of these facilities, relocating and readapting the designs would be simpler and more practical.

Conclusion – taking New Urbanism forward

Therefore, the designs adapted by New Urbanism has left a lasting impression on many communities worldwide, particularly in the west. Many of the cities that followed New Urbanism principles have become very successful and sort after towns as people enjoy being centrally located with good transport facilities without being able to rely on cars. Walkability is one of the main concepts of New Urbanism which has been successful in influencing other such movements such as the car-free movement and placemaking movement. It is important to understand these principles of New Urbanism for the benefit of future community well-being, which can be practiced and designed around the world.

Read About: Public Sculptures can make an Impact on People

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