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Urban Planning

Our Planning Process Is Broken; Street Experiments Can Help

Everyone knows how it goes: A street redesign is proposed to calm traffic. Municipal planners and engineers study the project for years, producing reports detailing its importance for sustainability, congestion reduction and traffic safety. Despite this, the project faces massive backlash at community engagement events, with residents complaining about lost parking and increased congestion. In the end, local politicians cancel the redesign, citing a “lack of social acceptability.” This story is all too common in cities across the U.S. and Canada, and it’s not because of “car culture” or “a lack of advocacy.”

Civic Innovation Is Flourishing In Cities Right Now

This summer, cities around the world are unveiling and expanding new tools and initiatives in the name of civic engagement and digital innovation. From Los Angeles to Lisbon, local governments are testing different models of outreach and participation with the promise of increasing trust and equity in civic processes and institutions. Ranging from online portals to citizen assemblies, the wave of experimentation in policy and design responds to historic levels of distrust and disengagement in government at all levels. The question remains whether these new tools deliver on their promises to effectively bring underrepresented communities into decision-making processes and increase transparency and equity in bureaucratic systems.

Disaster Recovery Efforts Can Serve More Than One Goal

In the aftermath of last week’s floods, my home state of Vermont faces a daunting path to recovery. Flooding damaged homes and businesses. Roads and bridges washed out, and communities have been cut off from the rest of the state. Vermont has walked this path before, after Tropical Storm Irene, and we are not alone in facing a recovery now. As the climate crisis deepens, more places will be spending more time in recovery mode. Recovery isn’t just a difficult task. It’s also one with lasting consequences. Rebuilt infrastructure will — hopefully — stand for decades to come. Over its lifetime, it will influence climate resilience, carbon emissions, health, well-being and social equity.
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