As editors of PLANetizen, we review several hundred planning and
development news articles, reports, books, studies, and editorials
each month. Many of our news articles are contributed by
correspondents and readers, and we also track the popularity of each
article. This provides us a unique insight into which issues urban
planners, developers, and allied professionals consider
important. Based on this understanding, we have selected the most
important issues from 2003, along with links to some of the more
popular or influential stories on each topic.
(Note: Only stories that are still available for free from the source
publication were included in this list.)
From the physical presence of its huge stores to its repercussions on
local businesses, Wal-Mart is changing America. Critics warned of the
consequences of Wal-Mart's low priced foreign-manufactured goods on
our economy and society. Cities and citizens developed strategies to
respond to the arrival of the world's largest retailer in their
The mall, an iconic structure of the American landscape, may be
headed for exctinction. Is the cycle now being repeated with aging
Wal-Mart supercenters? What will we do with the skeletons being left
After experts linked obesity with sprawl, New Urbanism and Smart
Growth advocates had new ammunition to support their arguments. But the
link between public health and sprawl continues to questioned.
Cities around the world closely follow a radical, but ultimately
successful experiment to charge drivers of private cars entering central
London. After London's experience, congesting charging doesn't seem so
far-fetched anymore. Will this work in other cities?
The Bush administration proposed drastic changes to decades-old
environmental laws drawing fierce criticism from critics, who charge
that the administration is systematically dismantling the last 50 years
of environmental progress.
Are we seeing the rise of a different class of cities? Cities begin to
explore how smaller areas can challenge urban centers as the "urban
heirarchy" flattens out, and the areas between the urban core and
suburbs develop personalities of their own.
In 2002, Richard Florida initiated a new way of thinking about the
benefits of the creative class to the urban economy. In 2003, with an
eye on their economic health cities begin to experiment with the theory
and attract different types of talent and businesses.
As the nation headed to war with Iraq, planners discussed how to
reduce dependence on oil, and whether U.S. development patterns are a
result of cheap gas.
Critics question whether traditional and outdated zoning is in fact
constraining new urbanism and smart growth development in favor of
sprawl. Is it time for a fresh look at how we zone our cities?
Linking land use and transportation has gained popularity in 2003, not
just within the planning community, but also in the media. Cities begin
experimenting with TOD projects based on a wide variety of successful
TOD projects across the nation that have demonstrated that linking
transit and land use is both sustainable and good business.
Can you predict the top issues for 2004? Write a comment below and let us know.
Abhijeet Chavan and Chris Steins are co-editors of PLANetizen.