Reinventing America’s Cities

Nicolai Ouroussoff writes that “We long for a bold urban vision” in his NY Times piece “Reinventing America’s Cities: The Time Is Now.” Below the fold are some selected excerpts.

India too needs a bold urban vision, as I have been arguing for a while. Fortunately (or unfortunately, depending on how you look at it) for India, most of India does not live in cities. India does not have to reinvent its cities — it has to build new ones. Fortunately though, the world has learned a lot about building livable cities and India does not have to go about reinventing the wheel: India has to be smart enough to learn from the mistakes the others have made. India can — and must — build efficient cities. That’s the only way out for the hundreds of millions trapped in villages in rural India.

I have been arguing for an rail transportation backbone for India. I proposed an “Integrated Rail Transportation System” in July 2005 (with follow ups here and here.) Broadly I have been arguing for a rational urbanization policy, an energy policy (which stresses the long term goal of developing non-carbon based energy technologies), a mass transportation system, and a modern educational system.

Here, for the record, are some bits from the NYT article:

. . . Europe and Asia began to supplant America as places where visions of the future were being built. The European Union spent decades building one of the most efficient networks of high-speed trains in the world, a railway that has unified the continent while leading to the cultural revival of cities like Brussels and Lille. And environmental standards for new construction were not only encouraged, they became the law — and have been for more than a decade.

This investment in traditional large-scale infrastructure projects is increasingly being coupled with serious thinking about the future of cities themselves. The Swedish government recently began a promising competition for a design that would replace a decrepit 1930s-era bridge in the heart of Stockholm with a seamless system of locks, roadways and shops. In Madrid the government is completing a plan to bury a four-mile strip of freeway underground and cover it up with parks and new housing. And only a few weeks ago the French government concluded a nine-month study on the future of metropolitan Paris. The study, which included some of Europe’s most celebrated architects, is the first phase in a plan to create a more sustainable, socially integrated model of “the post-Kyoto city.”

Even China, a country where centralized planning often looks like a grotesque parody of American postwar development, is beginning to move toward more sustainable, dense urban models. The government recently announced an $88 billion plan for freight and passenger trains that will link every major urban center along the country’s coast, from Beijing to the Pearl River Delta. And it is building miles of subway lines in booming cities like Shenzhen and Guangzhou.

Author: Atanu Dey


2 thoughts on “Reinventing America’s Cities”

  1. Though india has the opportunity, it is likely to get squandered away.

    The reason being neither the politicians nor the bureaucrats *ACCEPT* that the future of india is urban and must be planned for. They continue to live in their gandhian “india lives in her villages” stupor.

    As a result, we will, again, have urban agglomerations with no sewage, solid waste management, land management, etc.


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