To get intelligent cities you have to be visionary and engaged
Lewis' article might have been more useful had it focused on intelligent and resilient cities, based on a historical understanding but in the context of the 21st century.
It happens that Time Magazine did a special package of stories on "Intelligent Cities" earlier in March. The piece covers a number of cities in the U.S. and overseas:
• Reigning in Sprawleigh
• In Tucson, Saving the Bath Water Too
• Taming Shanghai's Sprawl
• For Electricity 2.0, a Short Circuit in Boulder
• London: Turning Access into Apps
• Want to Improve Your City? There's an App for That
• What Torino Can Teach Cleveland
• Congestion Pricing: To Skip Traffic, Atlanta Says Pay Up
• City Centered
The article on Raleigh, NC, "Reigning in Sprawleigh," discusses their new approach to planning, which by the way is similar to what Montgomery County, Maryland is doing. It focuses on a more "thematic" understanding of the issues facing the community and it targets growth to particular areas.
It happens that the growth plan is polycentric, while I am a fan of monocentricity. Be that as it may, their focus on building narrative themes so that people can grapple with broader issues than their block and think more broadly about the city as a whole is quite important. The themes are:
• Economic prosperity and equity
• Expanding housing choices
• Managing growth
• Coordinating land use and transportation
• Greenprint Raleigh-sustainable development
• Growing successful neighborhoods and communities.
Note that while DC's own Comprehensive Planning revision process from 2003-2006 was decent, producing a relatively decent document and the elements read well, the planning process started at a more grand position with a theme -- Growing an Inclusive City -- and a set of "issue papers" covering for the most part creatively some of the key issues faced by the city, this kind of narrative, creative, and transformational understanding of the issues wasn't carried through in terms of how the plan was developed.
Furthermore, the Government--both the executive branch and the legislative branch--took for granted that "the people" understood the plan after it was adopted, without entering into a promotion-marketing-engagement phase to build a broader understanding of what the plan was supposed to accomplish.
It is telling that none of the "Growing an Inclusive City" information, including the issue papers, are online anymore.
Of course, without a thematic approach to the plan to begin with, maybe such a level of understanding ends up being unattainable.
Raleigh did it a bit differently. From the Time article:
As for the new plan, perhaps the smartest thing the Raleigh team did was to instill ownership of the process among all constituencies from the beginning. "When I travel the country and hear the pushback in many circles to smart growth and sustainability and planning in general I don't think they see the competitive advantage you can have by embracing planning as a true partnership with all of the sectors."
The city brought in some of the biggest names in the planning business for a lecture series with topics that included: design of a 21st century city, the hidden costs of free parking, transit-oriented development, creation of a pedestrian friendly city, and traditional codes versus form-based codes. The planners did attractive presentations with grandiose but sometimes logically problematic themes such as "We are making new history", Great Streets, Great Spaces, Great Places", and discussions of iconic architecture and a vibrant downtown center.
I realize that my somewhat academic and participatory democracy focus may make me somewhat of a dreamer in terms of what people are willing and unwilling to support.
But I think it's absolutely true that when you don't try to educate people about the issues, they will remain uneducated about the issues, and it becomes difficult to move forward.