Urbanist TikTok Takes Aim at the Suburbs

Planners are using the popular video platform to explain how car dependence and single-family zoning deepen suburban isolation and affect affordability and sustainability.

2 minute read

August 3, 2022, 7:00 AM PDT

By Diana Ionescu @aworkoffiction


Woman holding phone with TikTok logo

diy13 / TikTok app

Urbanism isn’t entirely new to TikTok, but a new generation of creators passionate about public transit, affordable housing, and walkability is bringing wonky planning concepts like induced demand to a massive young audience. As Sarah Holder writes in Bloomberg CityLab, “Many of the most active posters on TikTok are professionals — or professionals-to-be — in their respective fields, not just armchair urbanists. But the app doesn’t favor individual personalities, and like-minded posters don’t generally congregate in groups.” According to Holder, “While their content varies, these creators share a similar goal: to spread the gospel of urbanism to a new generation, and push policies that advance environmental adaptation and housing affordability.”

During the pandemic, when many suburban teens found themselves isolated in their car-centric neighborhoods, some TikTok creators found an opportunity to reach young people with videos that explained the historical reasons why the suburbs are often so “deeply isolating” for teens. “Deterring car dependence, exposing the violence of urban renewal, and diversifying cookie-cutter neighborhoods zoned for single-family homes are recurrent themes.”

Others found themselves showing diverse representation in the urban planning field, prompting teens to find out more about the profession. According to city planner and TikTok-er Brittany Simmons, “A lot of people don’t know what these fields are.” Simmons continues, “It’s not that they’re not interested; they literally just don’t know that they exist.”

“When it comes to reshaping the physical world, some creators acknowledge that online virality can only go so far.” Still, writes Holder, “it's certainly getting more people to care.”

Friday, July 15, 2022 in Bloomberg CityLab

Green rapid transit bus pulled into station in dedicated lane.

Indiana Once Again Considering Ban on Dedicated Transit Lanes

The proposed legislation would impact the construction of planned IndyGo Blue Line, the third phase of the city’s bus rapid transit system.

February 25, 2024 - Fox 59

Aerial view of New York City architecture with augmented reality visualization, blue digital holograms over buildings and skyscrapers

4 Ways to Use AI in Urban Planning and City Design

With the ability to predict trends, engage citizens, enhance resource allocation, and guide decision-making, artificial intelligence has the potential to serve as planners’ very own multi-tool.

February 20, 2024 - ArchDaily

View from shore of Sepulveda Basin water catchment basin with marsh plants along shore.

LA’s ‘Spongy’ Infrastructure Captured Almost 9 Billion Gallons of Water

The city is turning away from stormwater management practices that shuttle water to the ocean, building infrastructure that collects and directs it underground instead.

February 25, 2024 - Wired

Black-and-white photo of street with old black model T and brick building on the corner.

The History of Racial Zoning and Housing Discrimination in the US

More than a century of discriminatory housing policy divided cities and contributed to the racial wealth gap and other social and economic inequities.

22 minutes ago - Urban Land Magazine

Aerial view of Vail, Colorado in winter with multi-story buildings in foregorund and snowy mountains in background.

Opinion: Resort Towns Must Take Action to Keep Housing Affordable

The workers that keep many popular tourist destinations running find it more difficult to find affordable housing near their jobs as more remote workers move to scenic resort areas.

1 hour ago - Governing

Aerial view of downtown San Antonio, Texas.

Commentary: San Antonio Needs ‘Thoughtful Reforms’ to Improve Affordability

The growing Texas city needs a new approach to meet its residents’ housing and mobility needs.

2 hours ago - San Antonio Report

Senior Planner

Heyer Gruel Associates

Regional Transportation Planner

Crater Planning District Commission

Senior Planner- Long range

Prince William County Planning Office

Urban Design for Planners 1: Software Tools

This six-course series explores essential urban design concepts using open source software and equips planners with the tools they need to participate fully in the urban design process.

Planning for Universal Design

Learn the tools for implementing Universal Design in planning regulations.