Saturday, April 9, 2011

What is the Most Important Lesson I Have Learned as a Town Planner?

By Dom Nozzi, AICP

What is the most important lesson I’ve learned in my 25 years as a town planner?
American communities tend to beat around the bush or otherwise mince words when their spokespeople proclaim they would like to “improve the quality of life.” But we are often left hanging by such proclamations.
How do we promote quality of life? What are the details?
To me, my work as a planner has made it crystal clear, for me, how a community achieves and maintains a quality of life.
The most profound influence on community quality of life is directly related to how much effort the community puts into catering to cars. And the astonishing fact is this: Most all of us either don’t realize, or are too timid to point out, that there is an inverse relationship between happy cars and happy people. That is, the happier we try to make cars by building wide, multi-lane, high-speed roads, creating enormous (and unpriced) parking lots, and setting buildings an enormous distance away from these now hostile roads, the worse conditions become for people – at least for those people seeking a more walkable, sociable lifestyle, and to some extent, for those who seek a more drivable lifestyle.

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