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Successful Metropolitan Areas Prioritize Proximity

Brookings buils on the findings of recent research about jobs densification in cities around the country to make a larger point about the benefits of proximity in urban design, as compared to sprawl.
June 26, 2019, 5am PDT | James Brasuell | @CasualBrasuell
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"New research from the Bass Center for Transformative Placemaking at Brookings confirms that when it comes to site selection, American businesses continue to value proximity."

Adie Tomer, Joseph W. Kane, and Lara Fishbane write to explain the findings of the research referenced above, tying transportation and land use planning to the discussion as the "ultimate enablers of proximity."

"The character of our urban form—including density, permitted use in buildings, and transportation designs—will either promote closer proximity or push economic activity further apart. And despite the best efforts of many business and civic leaders, the prevailing transportation model in the United States downplays distance and focuses too much on traffic," according to the article.

Earlier this month, Planetizen picked up the news of the research cited here, but the current article more explicitly ties the findings of the study to planning policies and more explicitly appeals for a shift toward less car-oriented sprawl.

"We propose a new model: prioritizing human-scale proximity and the shorter-distance travel it promotes," according to the article, before laying out a list of five benefits to more proximity and less sprawl, with more detail in the source article:

  1. Proximity promotes agglomeration, helping to grow industries and regional economies.
  2. Proximity requires less infrastructure per capita, reducing fiscal burdens on communities.
  3. Proximity offers more modal choice, making transportation more affordable and age-neutral.
  4. Proximity is essential to hitting carbon targets and developing more resilient places.
  5. Proximity incentivizes safer streets and supports a healthier population.

The article also includes one critical caveat: the proposal does not necessitate a Cobursian approach to urban development that would replicate skyscrapers all over urban areas. To get at the right mix of densities, the trio of writers suggests making better use of the new troves of transportation data available to planners.

Full Story:
Published on Monday, June 24, 2019 in Brookings
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