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7 principles for building better cities | Peter Calthorpe

7 principles for building better cities | Peter Calthorpe


So, let me add to the complexity of the situation we find ourselves in. At the same time that we’re solving
for climate change, we’re going to be building cities
for three billion people. That’s a doubling
of the urban environment. If we don’t get that right, I’m not sure all the climate solutions
in the world will save mankind, because so much depends
on how we shape our cities: not just environmental impacts, but our social well-being, our economic vitality, our sense of community and connectedness. Fundamentally, the way we shape cities
is a manifestation of the kind of humanity we bring to bear. And so getting it right is, I think, the order of the day. And to a certain degree, getting it right
can help us solve climate change, because in the end, it’s our behavior that seems
to be driving the problem. The problem isn’t free-floating, and it isn’t just ExxonMobil
and oil companies. It’s us; how we live. How we live. There’s a villain in this story. It’s called sprawl,
and I’ll be upfront about that. But it’s not just the kind of sprawl
you think of, or many people think of, as low-density development out at the periphery
of the metropolitan area. Actually, I think sprawl can happen
anywhere, at any density. The key attribute
is that it isolates people. It segregates people
into economic enclaves and land-use enclaves. It separates them from nature. It doesn’t allow the cross-fertilization, the interaction, that make cities great places and that make society thrive. So the antidote to sprawl is really
what we all need to be thinking about, especially when we’re taking on
this massive construction project. So let me take you through one exercise. We developed the model
for the state of California so they could get on
with reducing carbon emissions. We did a whole series of scenarios
for how the state could grow, and this is just one
overly simplified one. We mixed different development prototypes and said they’re going to carry us
through the year 2050, 10 million new crew
in our state of California. And one was sprawl. It’s just more of the same:
shopping malls, subdivisions, office parks. The other one was dominated by,
not everybody moving to the city, but just compact development, what we used to think of
as streetcar suburbs, walkable neighborhoods, low-rise, but integrated,
mixed-used environments. And the results are astounding. They’re astounding not just
for the scale of the difference of this one shift
in our city-making habit but also because each one represents
a special interest group, a special interest group
that used to advocate for their concerns one at a time. They did not see the, what I call,
“co-benefits” of urban form that allows them to join with others. So, land consumption: environmentalists are really
concerned about this, so are farmers; there’s a whole range of people, and, of course, neighborhood groups
that want open space nearby. The sprawl version of California almost doubles the urban
physical footprint. Greenhouse gas: tremendous savings, because in California, our biggest
carbon emission comes from cars, and cities that don’t depend
on cars as much obviously create huge savings. Vehicle miles traveled:
that’s what I was just talking about. Just reducing the average 10,000 miles
per household per year, from somewhere
in the mid-26,000 per household, has a huge impact
not just on air quality and carbon but also on the household pocketbook. It’s very expensive to drive that much, and as we’ve seen, the middle class is struggling to hold on. Health care: we were talking about
how do you fix it once we broke it — clean the air. Why not just stop polluting? Why not just use our feet and bikes more? And that’s a function of the kinds
of cities that we shape. Household costs: 2008 was a mark in time, not of just the financial
industry running amok. It was that we were trying to sell
too many of the wrong kind of housing: large lot, single family, distant, too expensive for the average
middle-class family to afford and, quite frankly, not a good fit
to their lifestyle anymore. But in order to move inventory, you can discount the financing
and get it sold. I think that’s a lot of what happened. Reducing cost by 10,000 dollars — remember, in California
the median is 50,000 — this is a big element. That’s just cars and utility costs. So the affordable housing advocates,
who often sit off in their silos separate from the environmentalists,
separate from the politicians, everybody fighting with everyone, now begin to see common cause, and I think the common cause
is what really brings about the change. Los Angeles, as a result of these efforts, has now decided to transform itself into a more transit-oriented environment. As a matter of fact, since ’08, they’ve voted in 400 billion dollars
of bonds for transit and zero dollars for new highways. What a transformation: LA becomes a city of walkers and transit, not a city of cars. (Applause) How does it happen? You take the least
desirable land, the strip, you add where there’s space, transit and then you infill mixed-use development, you satisfy new housing demands and you make the existing neighborhoods all around it more complex, more interesting, more walkable. Here’s another kind of sprawl: China, high-density sprawl,
what you think of as an oxymoron, but the same problems,
everything isolated in superblocks, and of course this amazing smog
that was just spoken to. Twelve percent of GDP
in China now is spent on the health impacts of that. The history, of course,
of Chinese cities is robust. It’s like any other place. Community was all about small, local shops and local services and walking,
interacting with your neighbors. It may sound utopian, but it’s not. It’s actually what people really want. The new superblocks — these are blocks that would have
5,000 units in them, and they’re gated as well,
because nobody knows anybody else. And of course, there isn’t even
a sidewalk, no ground floor shops — a very sterile environment. I found this one case
here in one of the superblocks where people had illicitly set up
shops in their garages so that they could have that kind
of local service economy. The desire of people
to get it right is there. We just have to get the planners
on board and the politicians. All right. Some technical planning stuff. Chongqing is a city of 30 million people. It’s almost as big as California. This is a small growth area. They wanted us to test
the alternative to sprawl in several cities across China. This is for four-and-a-half
million people. What the takeaway from this image is, every one of those circles
is a walking radius around a transit station — massive investment in metro and BRT, and a distribution that allows everybody to work within walking distance of that. The red area, this is a blow-up. All of a sudden, our principles
called for green space preserving the important
ecological features. And then those other streets in there
are auto-free streets. So instead of bulldozing,
leveling the site and building right up to the river, this green edge was something
that really wasn’t normative in China until these set of practices began experimentation there. The urban fabric, small blocks, maybe 500 families per block. They know each other. The street perimeter has shops so there’s local destinations. And the streets themselves become smaller, because there are more of them. Very simple, straightforward urban design. Now, here you have something
I dearly love. Think of the logic. If only a third of the people have cars, why do we give 100 percent
of our streets to cars? What if we gave 70 percent of the streets to car-free, to everybody else, so that the transit
could move well for them, so that they could walk,
so they could bike? Why not have — (Applause) geographic equity in our circulation system? And quite frankly,
cities would function better. No matter what they do, no matter how many ring roads
they build in Beijing, they just can’t overcome
complete gridlock. So this is an auto-free street,
mixed use along the edge. It has transit running down the middle. I’m happy to make that transit
autonomous vehicles, but maybe I’ll have a chance
to talk about that later. So there are seven principles
that have now been adopted by the highest levels
in the Chinese government, and they’re moving to implement them. And they’re simple, and they are globally,
I think, universal principles. One is to preserve
the natural environment, the history and the critical agriculture. Second is mix. Mixed use is popular,
but when I say mixed, I mean mixed incomes, mixed age groups as well as mixed-land use. Walk. There’s no great city
that you don’t enjoy walking in. You don’t go there. The places you go on vacation
are places you can walk. Why not make it everywhere? Bike is the most efficient
means of transportation we know. China has now adopted policies
that put six meters of bike lane on every street. They’re serious about getting back
to their biking history. (Applause) Complicated planner-ese here: connect. It’s a street network
that allows many routes instead of singular routes and provides many kinds of streets
instead of just one. Ride. We have to invest more in transit. There’s no silver bullet. Autonomous vehicles are not
going to solve this for us. As a matter of fact, they’re going
to generate more traffic, more VMT, than the alternative. And focus. We have a hierarchy of the city
based on transit rather than the old armature of freeways. It’s a big paradigm shift, but those two things
have to get reconnected in ways that really shape
the structure of the city. So I’m very hopeful. In California, the United States, China —
these changes are well accepted. I’m hopeful for two reasons. One is, most people get it. They understand intrinsically what a great city can and should be. The second is that the kind of analysis
we can bring to bear now allows people to connect the dots, allows people to shape
political coalitions that didn’t exist in the past. That allows them to bring into being
the kinds of communities we all need. Thank you. (Applause) Chris Anderson: So, OK:
autonomous driving, self-driving cars. A lot of people here
are very excited about them. What are your concerns
or issues about them? Peter Calthorpe: Well, I think
there’s almost too much hype here. First is, everybody says
we’re going to get rid of a lot of cars. What they don’t say is you’re going
to get a lot more vehicle miles. You’re going to get a lot more
cars moving on streets. There will be more congestion. CA: Because they’re so appealing — you can drive while reading or sleeping. PC: Well, a couple of reasons. One is, if they’re privately owned,
people will travel greater distances. It’ll be a new lease on life to sprawl. If you can work on your way to work, you can live in more remote locations. It’ll revitalize sprawl in a way that I’m deeply frightened. Taxis: about 50 percent of the surveys say
that people won’t share them. If they don’t share them, you can end up with a 90 percent
increase in vehicle miles traveled. If you share them, you’re still at around
a 30 percent increase in VMT. CA: Sharing them, meaning
having multiple people riding at once in some sort of intelligent ride-sharing? PC: Yeah, so the Uber share
without a steering wheel. The reality is, the efficiency
of vehicles — you can do it with or without a steering wheel,
it doesn’t matter. They claim they’re the only ones
that are going to be efficient electric, but that’s not true. But the real bottom line
is that walking, biking and transit are the way cities and communities thrive. And putting people
in their private bubbles, whether they have a steering wheel or not, is the wrong direction. And quite frankly, the image of an AV on its way
to McDonald’s to pick up a pack without its owner, just being sent off on these
kind of random errands is really frightening to me. CA: Well, thank you for that,
and I have to say, the images you showed of those mixed-use streets
were really inspiring, really beautiful. PC: Thank you.
CA: Thank you for your work. (Applause)

100 comments on “7 principles for building better cities | Peter Calthorpe

  1. I live in a suburb, and of course if you want to get anywhere you need a car, or at least spend the time to walk to the bus stop then ride a possibly dank crowded bus for who knows how long. I'd absolutely LOVE it if everything I needed was within walking distance or there was lightrail everywhere.

  2. I think the only people who actually want self-driving cars are the car makers. They want to convince us that we want it because it means we keep buying cars, instead of moving forward with transit systems that make sense.

  3. This is all well and good to talk about and it sounds really nice. But until they make housing be that houses or apartments considerably more affordable in urban or city areas people are going to go to places they can afford to live. The reality is that is not going to happen because of capitalism and the market. Because urban areas and cities have better public transport, more conveniences people pay more money for accommodation pushing the prices higher and higher. Al;so to add the little extra paid on transport due to being further out is a pittance compared to the extra needed in mortgage payments if you live in a well set out urban area or the city.

  4. Scariest thing in the world would be my car getting Mcdonald's for me? I think this guy has suspicious, irrational fears.

  5. How are you going to get the supply chain that is needed for a large city if there are no streets and only walkways? Pack mule?

  6. interesting. he's talking about forming community, while whites are moving in black areas, gentrifying it and disrupting communities. Sad people

  7. I dunno what sprawl and urban or compact mean.

    I understand, just that, cities should be scientific, possess some green spaces, and it's more than greatness to divide them between residential and work + study, while being MINIMALISTIC, as in possessing less space for beds and chairs and wardrobes, and so on. There is also the consideration of art cities, sports cities, scientific cities, and music/movie cities. As much as a city representing the government which incorporates subparts from science, art, sports and all.

  8. co-benefits work best in expert universities of mega-institute scales which have multiple themes, rather than just the working environment.
    For workers, it might be okay to have residential areas separated, but students should be close to each other, even though that should seem to apply to the workers themselves. That's how much potential a student has, compared to a worker who has perhaps grown to a shadow of himself.

    Compact sounds 'nice', but it seems that's what most people have been doing. There's that school recently featured on bbc about England, of a school providing food, cleaners of cloth and stuffs. With food, cloth supply, products and most everything taken care of in the version of apple/silicon-valley supermarts, without the staff, or with AI to create these products, the compactness has already gone a long, long way.

    Sounds like compact cities don't rely on congestion, centralization, and stuffs. Kinda contradictory, considering it's saying compact, 'coz all the stuffs are centralized there. But that's probably just saying that it is so, for the people living there. Sounds self-sufficient, so sounds good.

    Cities which rely too much on just working environments to create 'smart' cities increase the risk of degenerate predators, and safe cities sound better. safe and compact.

  9. Beautiful. People like him will make our cities much healthier than they are now. All buildings should be mixed-used with shops on the ground floor.

  10. 3 billion? but under Agenda 2030 you're only going to need 500, million! And that's from our current 7.3 bn. worldwide population. But after the cull this is the kind of city they want you in. In the UK at the turn of the 20th century they built what were named garden Cities like Welling Garden City and Letchworth – they were for the middle classed family and presented an ideal of post war life. (https://historicengland.org.uk/images-books/publications/english-garden-cities-introduction/ See this article) In some ways it became a success. But it did not avoid the issues of modern life or change to it.

  11. but no…. privacy and freedom from the influence of others? opinion disregarded. you're dumb and stupid.

  12. 11:08 autonomous vehicles generating more traffic is highly debatable – using "as a matter of fact" probably wasn't appropriate there.
    whether or not autonomous vehicles will ultimately result in more vehicles on the streets or not remains to be seen, but fact is that there are many very good and valid reasons why it might actually significantly reduce the number of vehicles on our streets. here's a couple of them:

    – when autonomous vehicles determine the route they're about to drive, they can have a real time map of traffic available at all times, allowing them to strategically choose routes to avoid jams. no congestion results in vehicles reaching their destinations much earlier, which in turn means that they spend less time on the road, and that effectively means that fewer vehicles are required.

    – autonomous cars deployed as a service do not need to park. once they dropped of a customer, they can immediately continue on serving the next, or when there's low demand, they may drive home to their company's car park for maintenance and charging. the amount of vehicles patrolling the streets can dynamically be regulated based on real time demand.

    – when people call an autonomous car, they'll be able to indicate what kind of trip they've in mind: how many people are there? do they need space for luggage or not? the service will then be able to allocate a vehicle that's perfectly suited for exactly the task it's called upon. for instance, the large majority of people seeking transportation are by themselves, so many of the vehicles may actually look more like buggies with just one seat, which can navigate very efficiently and require less space (also of course require much less energy).

  13. watched like half of it. will he ever actually explain anything in detail? he's just throwing numbers at me….

  14. bikes are not good idea in cities that are too warm and humid and have to go to an office and not stink.

  15. We should also focus more on making architecture more interesting, such as using more wood and stones, and giving foundations/floors more interesting shapes instead of the standard rectangles.

  16. What happens when city authorities use infill development without any concern for the people living in the area? Meaning no parks, recreation, proper tree planting etc. In one case the city removed over 20 hectares of coniferous forest canopy replacing a part of it with deciduous trees in a cold climate area.

  17. I cant believe CHINA, a COMMUNIST country, is making better strives in environmental and public health than the USA, the government with the CORRECT political ideology

  18. Great concept, but what about the logistics of getting supplies to stores, tradesman and services getting their tools and materials to a location. sounds like a great concept that looks great on paper

  19. Lots of good information here. I particularly like the greening of the waterways which………needs to be done world wide. It helps keep the waters clean and gives all people access to water for recreation. Privatising waterlines is silly. One problem I have with this idea is it really doesn't account for the primary reason cities exist. Jobs. Most cities grew up around ports, or natural resources, or industrial complexes that have very specific locations. So while a lot of domestic and service jobs can be rezoned into these better planned areas, the majority of people still need to get to the major economic centres. You can't break a mine or a factory up into many small ones, as an example. It's also very difficult to transform older cities into this formula since people already own their lands and won't want to give them up. I think cities on the whole would have to completely change their future zoning laws………which is going to reek havoc on real estate investments and values and face a HUGE push back from those large markets and the bankers that manage them. Focusing on new growth is probably a better way to start, and at least set the president. Once that's successful(if it's successful), converting older infrastructure will be an easier sell. Those wealthy property owners aren't going to take it sitting down though.

  20. What he claims is sprawl is just badly planned places. I view the term sprawl as organic unplanned roads that grow. These are probably hard to find in a USA unlike Europe as older places just grew where people went

  21. Let make it simpler, the principles of ideal neighborhood. Five plus N's will make a city, are defining every N? or every N has to have 7 things? we actually don't know because we didn't concentrate. Simple real examples from europe, in Germany cities are centralized, means a small circle that grow bigger and bigger. In Switzerland a flat city is the typical ideology, means a street has shops in one of its neighborhoods while other one elsewhere. I have no idea how many principle in one city except one which is a city.

  22. im not sure about bicycles but people prefer houses and cars i think over apartments and public transport

  23. the population of EU is around 500mil., the US population is 320mil. the EU territory is twice as small as that of the US (4.5mil sq km vs ~10mil sq km). isn't it hard to wrap your head around the fact that more people live in Europe than US on a territory that's two times smaller and still they have better suited cities for living than North America! this goes to show that the change is possible in North America too. transforming megapolises is great but I think it's important to also focus on developing smaller cities and towns, so that population could be distributed more evenly and of course create adequate green transit systems between the cities (thus replacing cars and planes as primary means of travelling)

  24. Omg climate change is not caused by humans. The planet is 4 -5 billion years old. Humans live 80 years. Lol it’s funny how large humans think they are. Humans are small tiny. So no we are not to blame for climate change. It’s just a fact that has been around for 2-3 billion years.

  25. "The desire of people to get it right is there. We just have to get the planners on board, and the politicians."

    We didn't always have "planners", and in earlier times politicians (municipal or anyone else) didn't have the power to interfere in people's lives like they do today. All of their depredations were (and still are) justified as supposedly being in the "public interest". But maybe that concept is a phony one, and progress is just a matter of getting the lot of them out of the way?

  26. As for the planners needing to get on board, sometimes the planners need to just get out of the way because the people should be making the decisions. Centralization is the problem. Ideas should be able to come from anyone, anywhere.

  27. Try to go to India and south-east asia and solve town planning and infrastructure development problems there. The west should be child's play.

  28. This subject always makes me want to bust out Skylines.
    If you care about the environment at all, densification is essential. We are much more efficient when we are close together.

  29. I don't think you can compare that city in China to cities in the US because most families have 2 cars. We like our independence and want to be able to drive freely without traffic. Planning a city with one lane will not be planned well in the long run as the city grows bigger. I do like the other principles you shared though.

  30. 400 billion dollars in bonds for bikes but nothing to fix the roads? If LA's highways get expanded there would be less pollution from traffic. Cars are constantly stop and go there.

  31. Cities are constantly rebuilt, and they always have been, except for monumental public works. You don't have to get it right the first time–and you CAN'T. What works in 2020 isn't going to be what is needed in 2520. Some of the stuff that we build to be beautiful will last. 99% won't. That's okay. We're not psychic, and we can't pretend to be. Street layouts tend to endure. If we look past our obsessions with dead ends with no pedestrian/cycling connection AND our obsession with a rigid grid, we have a shot at making some layouts that work long term. If we fail, then the city will slow down. If it literally stops (Inn of Court, I'm looking at you), something will be demolished to make way, or it will die a natural death. Thus it's always been.

  32. Now I know that ancient Rome was terrible because its "sprawl" isolated the patricians in their economic enclaves on Capitoline and the other best bits of the hills. Right. That's it. That's sprawl……

  33. Farmers are not "concerned" with sprawl. They make bank from getting out of farming when their property values jump because people want to make them into developments. We are overstocked with farms. The overproduction of food is impoverishing farmers in a number of industries because there is just too much supply for the demand. The amount of land under cultivation declined dramatically during the 20th century as marginal areas were abandoned and cultivation concentrated in the richest, most productive areas.

  34. Some idea – government should play a bigger role in this issue, limit the licence to be issued to business/housing development based on certain criteria, core idea is to do it against the current, the more popular is the area, the less incentive convenience and development priority should go the that area, government should use it power to direct the flow of density from area to area, not by letting the economic and businesses to director the flow.

  35. Why would humans want to live in cities all cramped together when we have the tools to facilitate living spread out?

  36. Turning footsteps into electricity. Photo credit: Unsplash. …

    Recycling in low-income communities. …

    Combating urban pollution with green tech. …

    Alternative solution to global sanitation crisis. …

    Powering the future through cogeneration.

  37. Wonderful Video. I would like to see this work done at the epicentre of car culture in places like Flint and Detroit. I live in Sarnia, Canada, just an hour away from Detroit and the car culture is well-engrained in people's identity and their decision-making.People here by and large wish to be in sprawls. For instance, revitalization projects are on-going in our downtown, but every time there is proposed changed to parking, creating paid spaces in the core and free parking on the outskirts.. or creating bike lanes (unprotected).. or moving away from the sprawl pattern, it seems like both citizens, business owners, and city council alike are happy to disregard solid evidence to support better economic, environmental, and health returns for building higher density, better connected, and mixed use. It has made rental prices soar, created poor options for older adults to remain in their neighbourhood, hard for young families to enter the market, etc..

    If the evidence doesn't work and our small cities don't want to invest in walk-able neighbourhoods, what is there to do?

  38. This TED talk are outdated…. Amazon become issues for retail and mixed used project these day in California. Lot of retail stories are closing. Shopping mall have more and more open spaces…

  39. Al Gore made such ideas part of his campaign speech. Americans don’t want to be told what to do about anything, but unless policy drives our future urban planning, we will be a worse and worse sprawling mess.

  40. Focus on stepping your game up (or some organization you created or apart of) to build better cities instead of whining about the people and organizations that build cities. If you don't like your government then start your own organization and outperform your government. If you want to succeed at living in better cities as bad as you want to breathe then you'll let nothing deny you. There's talking about it and then there's doing it. STFU and do it or even talk while you do it but don't just talk about it without actually doing a damn thing. WTF are YOU doing besides talking about it and whining about other people. Outperform those you complain about. Be so great at what you do that the actions of the enemies of progress for all become irrelevant. STEP YOUR MF GAME UP!

  41. I fantasize about moving back to Madrid so often. I miss being able to function without needing a car to get all of the things I need to live.

  42. remember forever that climate change not caused by human at all! climate has been changing on earth many times without even human being living on this planet!

  43. Idk if this guy has ever been to China, but those 小区 "little districts" or super blocks work pretty well in China. Idk what's your problem in not having shops with the little district. You only need to walk 100 to go out of the gated area and you're surrounded by shops and restaurants. You want calm and serenity within your neighborhood.

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