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Much of the talk is about a noun for the theory or advocacy of some kinds of places (urbanism), and an adjective for such places (urban). The adjective in Jarrett's sense, "walkable, dense, gridded, and pre-war," might be too exclusive. Just walkable might do. There are great urban neighborhoods that lack grids or density. The Mouffetard neighborhood in Paris and the old part of Aix-en-Provence retain their rabbit-warren medieval street networks. I don't know of better examples of urban neighborhoods. There are still countless villages and small towns throughout Europe that are still compact and walkable, even when they lack great density. Some of them retain the street network of walled cities. The grid is one method for creating great urban environments, but lacking a grid is not a problem with a rich, well-connected network. Why not create a new word, like "urbs?" "Cities" has too much baggage denoting jurisdiction or population size. Urbs could include villages, towns, and big cities as long as they are walkable. An urb need not be dense when it lacks large population, but it needs to grow in density as it increases in population. Walkable places scale up through density.
Toggle Commented Jan 13, 2014 on word wars: urbanism, urban at Human Transit
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Jarrett, Thanks for calling our attention to the TTI and offering constructive ways to criticize it. You mention the 2010 CEOs for Cities report, and there's a graphic for regional commute time on page seven of the PDF: If you can excuse the snark, The Urban Mobility Report should be called The Metropolitan Drive-Very-Fast Report. The Time Travel Index only tells us how much time drivers spend commuting in free flowing traffic compared to driving in congestion. A fifty mile commute could achieve a perfect TTI score if there were free-flowing traffic on the roads. TTI and the UMR are more concerned with how fast you drive than they are with how much time you spend driving. This is part and parcel of a systemic error in thinking too much about maximizing mobility instead of maximizing access, which you and Todd Littman have articulated elsewhere. Is the inability to drive-very-fast an urban problem? TTI-- both the index and the institution--treat congestion as an "urban" problem that needs to be solved. Congestion in metropolitan areas is an acute problem for many suburbanites, but is much less problematic for urban dwellers. We should insist on the term "metropolitan" to describe regions combining urban and suburban places. We make it easier for regional leaders to impose suburban-style solutions on urban areas when we are careless about our categories. For example, expanding freeways and parking requirements in urban areas are supposedly solutions to "urban problems." The UMR is more of an advocacy document than a transportation study. The UMR is designed to whip metro-dwellers into a frenzy about "urban congestion" so that we pressure regional leaders to spend billions (annually per large region) to "solve it."
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