While Steffen views tactical urbanism as a somewhat effective solution to "the paralysis of city-wide and systems-focused efforts," he longs for an approach to planning and governance that can achieve the large-scale solutions to the myriad challenges of urban growth, and move beyond laissez-faire development and NIMBY opposition to change.
With little actual power and small budgets, with a few exceptions, North American planning is ill equipped to "achieve the sort of impacts that could produce changed systems," argues Steffen. In its place, he proposes "strategic urbanism." And by sketching out this concept in only the broadest of strokes, he's able to make it accomplish anything.
"I'm not sure yet what strategic urbanism would actually look like," says Steffen, "but it would certainly start from the presumption that good cities can't thrive with broken governance, and that aggressively choosing good changes is the only path that will work. It would have to add the magnitude of density and new infrastructure that affordability, better-functioning systems, social justice and sustainability demand, while deciding to effectively preserve the qualities of places we most value."