Europe’s cities are getting more crowded – and that’s a good thing – Mother Jones | Popgen Tech


It makes sense that cities are lower-carbon places to live. If you concentrate people in one area, you can provide services to them much more efficiently. Imagine how long it would take a postal worker to deliver 500 letters in a village, compared to the same number of people all living in a high-rise building. The same applies to other resources such as water and waste disposal. And most importantly, people who live in cities are much less likely to drive to work or pick up groceries. Denser urban environments well served by public transport usually mean large reductions in per capita carbon emissions.

Of course, looking for the most efficient way to pack as many people into one place doesn’t always lead to the happiest places to live. We know that crowded cities can be hotspots for pollution and lead people to loneliness. But there are all sorts of things we can do to make cities more pleasant places to live. We can plant more trees and set aside urban green space. We can reduce the number of cars on the street—or make sure that the cars there are less polluting—and use that extra space for bike lanes, outdoor restaurants, or parks. “There are so many opportunities to make cities much greener,” says Cortinovis.

Even in cities that already feel pretty crowded, there’s often a lot more room to densify than we might think. “You can densify London massively. Especially outside of London,” says Rode. This is even more true when you compare American and European cities. This research project from the Marron Institute of Urban Management at New York University allows you to compare the urban expansion of different cities. Between 2000 and 2013, only 6 percent of new urban land in London came from the expansion of the city. In Chicago, on the other hand, a quarter of the city’s urban growth came from suburban sprawl. In many cases, urban planning laws make it easier for developers to build low-density suburbs rather than redevelop areas within the city that were previously industrial zones, brownfields or less efficient housing.

And suburban sprawl usually means car-dominated built environments. If homes are far away from jobs, services and public transport, then the entire urban infrastructure must be built around people driving between those places in their cars and then parking somewhere. Building codes stimulate this car-first city planning, says Todd Litman, a transportation policy researcher in Victoria, British Columbia. Zoning laws in most US cities require a minimum amount of on-site parking for new residential developments. And any land set aside for car parking cannot be used to densify the city. (Berlin and London have both abolished parking minimums, except for people with disabilities, and some European cities have parking maximums to limit street parking.)


Source link