The problem in America is not a lack of ideas. It is a tendency to equate any large-scale government construction project, no matter how thoughtful, with the most brutal urban renewal tactics of the 1950s. One result has been that pioneering projects that skillfully blend basic infrastructure with broader urban needs like housing and park space are usually killed in their infancy. Another is that we now have an archaic and grotesquely wasteful federal system in which upkeep for roads, subways, housing, public parkland and our water supply are all handled separately.The parts on the Bronx and Buffalo make for particularly good reading. The Pratt plan for eliminating the Sheridan Expressway and reopening the South Bronx waterfront is a stroke of genius. And when it comes to Buffalo, a high speed rail connector that ties Buffalo to NYC and other cities in the region (both in the US and Canada) would be a major boon.
With money now available to invest again in such basic needs, I’d like to look at four cities representing a range of urban challenges and some of the plans available to address them. Though none of the plans are ideal as they stand today (and some of them represent only the germ of an idea), evaluated and addressed together as part of a coordinated effort, they could begin to form a blueprint for making our cities more efficient, sustainable and livable.
Image above of Northeast High Speed Rail Network taken from The Transport Politic.