This post from Kaid Benfield’s Blog on Switchboard drives to the heart of the problems we seem to experience with the (fairly) widespread adoption of TOD, Smart Growth and New Urbanism principles – even here in South Africa, Planners, Architects and Engineers have embraced these ideas and a lot of emphasis is being given to improved transportation such as high speed rail (Gautrain) and BRT projects that were coupled with the Soccer World Cup 2010. What is less obvious is the need to couple this with decentralized water and sanitation systems and reduced car use – overall a decoupling from consumption driven growth – here most people – even those who don’t have them, can’t seem to give up the idea of having a free standing house on its own piece of ground, two or more cars in the drive and using them to go to the mall, even if its round the corner. If you watch the media and TV you can clearly see why: that s what’s being shown in the soaps, driven by the ads and spawned by commercial interests and politicians who need compounded GDP growth art all costs to win elections and let’s face it most of us whohave these things are not rushing to give them up – we ‘of course’ have the excuse here that the transport systems don’t work, crime is rife and there is no other option but to hop in out car every time we think of anything we need!
I’ve been a bit of a one-man band over the last 2-3 years, arguing that we need a second generation of smart growth theory that goes beyond thinking about land use patterns per se.
We now know from tons of research that smart land use patterns – neighborhoods that are compact, well-located, walkable and transit-served – are critical to a sustainable future. They conserve land and reduce driving, reducing carbon and other emissions from transportation. But there are so many important elements of sustainability that land use patterns themselves do not reach or at least do not satisfy, from water consumption and runoff to building and infrastructure energy, to equity and more. Continue reading