Top 10 Urban Planning Issues From 2001

The editors of PLANetizen select the top 10 planning issues from 2001 according to readers.

Chris SteinsAbhijeet ChavanWe have the enviable job of reviewing several hundred planning news stories each month. We have been amazed and gratified by the feedback and contributions from the planning community -- many of our news articles are contributed by PLANetizen readers from across the U.S., and increasingly, from across the world. We track the popularity of the articles that appear on the PLANetizen website by measuring how many times the article is read. At the end of 2001, our editorial team selected the most important stories from 2001, as measured by the number of times you read them.

The Worst Town In The Nation
Gene Weingarten of the Washington Post searches for the 'Armpit of America': "Take a small town, remove any trace of history, character, or charm. Allow nothing with any redeeming qualities within city limits ... then place this pathetic assemblage of ghastly buildings and nasty people on a freeway in the midst of a harsh, uninviting wilderness, far enough from the nearest city to be inconvenient, but not so far for it to develop a character of its own. You now have created Battle Mountain, Nevada." (December, 2001)

Kunstler Predicts The End Of Tall Buildings
With the recent tragedies comes a sobering reassessment of America's (and the World's) infatuation with skyscrapers. James Howard Kunstler and Nikos A. Salingaros argue in a PLANetizen editorial that the age of skyscrapers is at an end. It must now be considered an experimental building typology that has failed. Who will ever again feel safe and comfortable working 110 stories above the ground? (September, 2001)

Ten Cheapest Places To Live publishes its ranking of the ten cheapest places in the U.S. to live -- from housing to transportation. Kokomo, Indiana, for example, is one of the top three cheapest cities in the Midwest -- the average home cost only $94,000 -- about $50,000 less than the national average. Kokomo, Indiana is also, perhaps coincidentally, the birthplace of the automobile. (October, 2001)

Harry Potter's Message About Sprawl
Behind the potions and magical creatures, Reason Magazine suggests that there is a subtle message about urban sprawl in Harry Potter. "Harry's mean-spirited and middle-class adopted family, the Dursley's, live at number four Privet Drive. The Dursley's, however, don't live in the heart of London, or in a middle-class urban neighborhood. Nope, they live in decidedly suburban England, in a townhouse attached to four or five other homes of the same style." (December, 2001)

Best Places In 2001
Forbes Magazine and the Milken Institute publish their annual list of the best places in the U.S. Leading this year's list are San Jose, CA; Austin-San Marcos, TX; San Francisco, CA. Two hundred metros are ranked based on growth in jobs and earned income, plus a measure of activity in critical technologies that foster future growth. (June, 2001)

The Three Most Exciting Trends In Planning
Having just completed his term as president of the American Institute of Certified Planners (AICP), Norman Krumholz has had the opportunity to speak with planners across the country. Based on his travels, he outlines the three most exciting trends he sees animating the planning profession. He also offers a warning: "One thing that seems to be in short supply in our noble profession is a long-term vision of a better city or a better society, which is, after all, the purpose of planning." (May, 2001)

The Future Of New Urbanism And Architecture
In an interview with the Christian Science Monitor Professor Vincent Scully, an architecture historian at Yale University, is a pioneer in the New Urbanism movement discusses the fundamentals of New Urbanism and architecture -- and its impact on the built environment. He traces the origins of New Urbanism to the New England town and shows that the traditional 2-1/2-story high-gabled houses of a town like New Haven helped create livable communities. (April, 2001)

Ten Cities With The Worst Commute
Which residents have the worst commutes in the nation? The San Francisco Chronicle reports that according to the U.S. Census Bureau residents in New York, Chicago and San Francisco have the longest commutes. Despite the most extensive transit system in the world, New Yorkers average a 39-minute trip to work -- meaning that commuters in New York spend about three entire days more traveling to work each year than those in second-place Chicago. (November, 2001)

So You Want To Be A Planning Director?
To be a good planning director you need four general skill sets. In a PLANetizen editorial Richard Carson offers a no-holds barred look at what it takes to be a planning director -- and whether you want to. (October, 2001)

Ten Keys To Walkable Communities
Walkable communities are celebrated destinations that create a sense of place and promote economic development. Dan Burden discusses ten key indicators to achieve prosperous, walkable, healthy, livable communities. Towns that implement these strategies have crystal clear visions for the future, and they are in the process of achieving each of these measures. (June, 2001)

Finally, two stories that didn't officially make the top 10, but were still very popular, are our runners-up:

Jane Jacobs Reviews New Urbanism
Jane Jacobs, author of the masterpiece, The Death and Life of Great American Cities, speaks with the conservative Reason Magazine about New Urbanism, city planning, Los Angeles, and how she would like to be remembered.. On the topic of New Urbanism, she says: "The New Urbanists want to have lively centers in the places that they develop, where people run into each other doing errands and that sort of thing. And yet, from what I've seen of their plans and the places they have built, they don't seem to have a sense of the anatomy of these hearts, these centers." (May 31, 2001)

The Worst Streets In North America
Via an online discussion list, members of The New Urbanism conduct a contest to compile a list of the most sprawling and pedestrian-unfriendly strips of asphalt and concrete in the nation. They come up with the twelve worst streets, and publish them on PLANetizen. (May, 2001)

Chris Steins is editor of PLANetizen. Abhijeet Chavan is managing editor of PLANetizen.




One of my favorite articles/issues from 2001 was the coverage of Ginger/Segway -- the "new transportation device that will revolutionize cities". This one was particularly hilarious!

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