Top Planning Trends – 2014

A deeper look at the traffic data on Planetizen reveals trends from the planning and urban design conversation of 2014.

Read Time: 6 minutes

December 31, 2014, 5:00 AM PST

By James Brasuell

Street in La Laguna, Canary Island Tenerife, Spain

Marisa Estivill / Shutterstock

Because of the professional and academic niche of the Planetizen audience, it's reasonable to assume that traffic data on Planetizen indicate trends in the direction of the study and practice of community and place. With the expertise of our audience in mind, we have, several times in the past year, pulled data from the site to draw conclusions about the topics of interest (or not so much) to our audience.

We've once again referred to the data we collected over the year, but instead of providing a list of the most popular posts (as we did for 2014 here), we've pulled other measures that reveal more of the larger, recurring themes of the 2014 planning discussion.

Popular tags (by number of references)
1) New York City
2) Los Angeles
3) San Francisco
4) Chicago
5) Affordable Housing
7) Philadelphia
8) Gentrification
9) Washington D.C.
12) Public Health
13) Climate Change
15) Planning
16) Detroit
17) Redevelopment
18) Seattle
19) Portland
20) Dallas
21) Atlanta
22) Highway Trust Fund
23) Transit Oriented Development
24) Parks
25) Walkability
26) Transit
27) Multi-modalism
28) Density
29) Sprawl

The above list indicates the editorial tendencies of a collective effort by Planetizen's editors, contributors, bloggers, and feature authors, who posted 60 times a week, for 52 weeks in the year (with few exceptions, like July 4, December 25, and January 1, when we post slightly less).

The obvious theme to notice in the most frequently cited tags is a strong tendency toward specific cities, of which New York City leads the count. In addition to being the most populous city in the United States, New York City is also on the forefront of the era's most prominent planning issues. Those issues show up in the most frequently cited subject tags: Affordable Housing, Gentrification, Public Health, and Climate Change. For the record, the Public Health tag often includes posts about transportation safety, in addition to air and water quality concerns.

Popular tags (by pageviews)
1) New York City
2) Los Angeles
3) San Francisco
4) Affordable Housing
6) Chicago
7) Gentrification
8) Walkability
10) Urban Design
11) Planning
12) Portland
13) Philadelphia
14) Millennials
15) Sprawl
16) Urban Planning
17) Detroit
18) Washington D.C.
18) Multi-modalism
19) Density
20) Smart Growth
21) Apps 
22) Transportation
24) Redevelopment
25) Mobility
26) Zoning

This list indicates the interests of the Planetizen audience in the form of collected traffic toward specific subjects. Comparing this list with the previous, a few tags climb the rankings, showing popularity that overcame a relative scarcity of posts. I noticed movement especially for these terms: Walkability, Urban Design, Millennials, and Sprawl.

I've linked to these tags so you can take a deeper look at the types of stories we shared on these subjects throughout 2014 and in previous years.

Most popular posts (by state and the District of Columbia)
Alabama -- Sprawl and the 'Death of the American South'
Alaska -- Where to Go in the Event of Climate Change
Arizona -- Arizona’s Suburb of the Future
Arkansas -- A Map of Housing Affordability in Each State
California -- So Much for the Environmental Benefits of Urban Density
Colorado -- Should Urban Planners Live in the City?
Connecticut -- Bar Brawl Breaks Out Over Kelo v. City of New London [Editor's note: this was an April Fool's post]
Delaware -- This is Awkward—Highway Widening Projects Based on Obsolete Projections
District of Columbia -- Gentrification and Displacement: Not the Relationship You Might Have Thought
Florida -- Book Review: Visions of Seaside
Georgia -- Sprawl and the 'Death of the American South'
Hawaii -- Honolulu Light Rail Taking Shape
Idaho -- Should Bikes Be Allowed to Roll through Stop Signs?
Illinois -- 'Brain Drain' Surprise: Cleveland vs. Chicago
Indiana -- Another (Surprising) Toll Road Bankruptcy
Iowa -- This Dubuque, Iowa Master Plan Is a Rust Belt Victory
Kansas -- Friday Funny: Coors Light Party Train Crashes in Kansas [Editor's note: this was a satirical post by The Onion]
Kentucky -- Two-Way Streets Can Fix Declining Downtown Neighborhoods
Louisiana -- Compare the Scale of U.S. Streetcar Systems
Maine -- Tar Sands Rebellion in Maine Port City 
Maryland -- Mixed-Success Predicted for High-Rise, Mixed-Use Suburban Developments
Massachusetts -- Boston's 'Adult Playground': Created without Traditional Planning
Michigan -- 'Lean Urbanism' Explained
Minnesota -- The United States' Top Large City for Biking Is...
Mississippi -- Good Design Sparks Rural Community Development
Missouri -- High Speed Locomotive Contract for Five States Awarded to Siemans AG
Montana -- A Developer's Perspective on Historic Restoration for Mixed-Used Development
Nebraska -- Competition Addresses the Design Challenges of Placemaking in Rural Communities
Nevada -- Norman Foster-Designed Tower to be Demolished in Las Vegas
New Hampshire -- Competition Addresses the Design Challenges of Placemaking in Rural Communities
New Jersey -- Ranking the Best (and Worst) Cities for Recreation
New Mexico -- Mapping the U.S. Mexico Border Fence
New York -- New Musical Glamorizes Urban Planning
North Carolina -- Sprawl and the 'Death of the American South'
North Dakota -- Life in 'America's New Gold Rush City'
Ohio -- The Case Against Clogging the Left Lane
Oklahoma -- The Fastest Growing Cities are Affordable Cities
Oregon -- The Power of Public-Private Partnerships: Mobile Phone Apps and Municipalities
Pennsylvania -- How 'Hipster Economics' Romanticizes Blight and Compounds Inequality
Rhode Island -- Making the Case for Downtowns: Tax Revenue
South Carolina -- Sprawl and the 'Death of the American South'
South Dakota -- Gone Viral: Swett, South Dakota for Sale at $400,000
Tennessee -- How a Bunch of Nosepickers are Helping Nashville Plan for its Future
Texas -- The Case Against Clogging the Left Lane
Utah -- How Utah Could End Homelessness by 2015
Vermont -- A Housing-Focused Solution to Vermont’s Heroin Epidemic
Virginia -- Is This the Most Useless Crosswalk Ever?
Washington -- The Case Against Clogging the Left Lane
West Virginia -- Which States Best Prioritize Walking and Biking?
Wisconsin -- Deconstructing the Policing of Conservation Subdivision Design Standards
Wyoming -- Meet the Creek that Splits the United States in Half

This list shows the most popular story relating to each state—that's not to be confused with traffic originating from that state. Some stories overlapped states, as was the case with "Sprawl and the 'Death of the American South,'" which covered Alabama, Georgia, North Carolina, and South Carolina.

Other than that exception and a few others, what I see here is a great variety and a reminder of how specific successful planning must be. Population, economics, and geography are never the same, even while many cities serve as case studies for others. Clearly, however, reductive formulations, such as the all-too-common city vs. suburb formula, don't stand up to the great diversity of places that comprise the United States.

As the "Death of the American South" story illustrates, the entire country is facing a new era of change on terms unique to each location. Change is coming at context-specific costs and with context-specific benefits. The trend is not complete—yet to be determined is how much of the old world we keep and just what the new world means for those living there.

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