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Density and Neighborhood Form Guided by Made for Walking

Matt Ball on March 5, 2013 - in Planning, Projects

In this era of high energy prices, economic uncertainty, and demographic change, an increasing number of Americans are showing an interest in urban living as an alternative to the traditional automobile-dependent suburb. Many people are also concerned about reducing their annual vehicle miles traveled (VMT) as a way to lower greenhouse gas emissions affecting climate change. But providing transportation options is complex and demands a shift in land use patterns and the way we locate and shape future development.

Density is often defined in terms of population per square mile, but such a crude measure makes it difficult to understand the relationship between density and city life. We need to think about urban density by including the density of jobs, schools, and services such as retail, transit, and recreational facilities. Fitting more amenities into a neighborhood within a spatial pattern that invites walking will create the type of built environment that offers real transportation options.

Landscape architect and urban designer Julie Campoli challenges our current notions of space and distance and helps us learn to appreciate and cultivate proximity. In this book, developed as a follow-up to Visualizing Density (2007, co-authored with aerial photographer Alex S. MacLean), she illustrates urban neighborhoods throughout North America with hundreds of street-level photographs.

While thinking big is important, this book visualizes a low-carbon environment in smaller increments by focusing on 12 urban neighborhoods of approximately 125 acres each—a comfortable pedestrian walk zone. Some are in familiar cities with historically dense land use patterns, intertwined uses, and comprehensive transit systems; others have emerged in unexpected locations, where the seeds of sustainable urban form are taking root on a micro level.

These places were selected because each offers choices: travel options, housing types, and a variety of things to do and places to shop. Their streets are comfortable, attractive, and safe for biking and walking. They all show how compact development can take shape in different regions and climates. Six specific qualities make them walkable: connections, tissue, population and housing density, services, streetscape, and green networks.

Read more about the book here.

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